Keene Police Chief’s Shocking Death A Major Loss to Community

Brian Costa

Brian Costa

I was shocked to hear the news on WKBK earlier this week that Brian Costa, Keene’s police chief since 2015, had died in his home one week ago. I was even more surprised to learn he was just 46 years old. Unlike his predecessor, Brian treated me like a human being. He was kind, respectful, and approachable. Surely he and I disagreed on various subjects, but that never stopped him from being willing to work with me where we agreed. The few times I’d interacted with him in his too-short-a-term as police chief, I was impressed with his humanity and professionalism. Though I didn’t know him well, I wish I did.

Years ago when I moved here, as many activists do, I had an axe to grind with the police. The police, as the enforcement arm of the state, were obviously the bad guys. However, as one of the original Cop Blockers, (Badge #5) out in the streets as often as I was, it didn’t take me long to begin connecting with the Keene police as fellow human beings (instead of mindless statist automatons, which is easy for us libertarians to think about police if we don’t know them). The most memorable early paradigm-shifting encounter was my ride-along with KPD’s Shane Maxfield, nearly a decade ago.

At various different activist events in Keene, (the home of Cop Block) I encountered Brian Costa on multiple occasions, who prior to becoming chief was one of KPD’s two captains. However, due to him being a captain, his responsibilities were more management than they were patrol, so our contact was fairly limited at that time.

Meanwhile, Costa’s predecessor as chief, Ken Meola had gone from having breakfast monthly with Sam Dodson and me, to pretending like I didn’t exist for years after the drinking game arrests.

Imagine my pleasant surprise then, when one day shortly after Brian’s appointment as Keene police chief, I was standing out in Central Square, distracted by something on my phone. As I looked up from my device, there he was right in front of me! Brian was dressed in his full Keene police uniform, as any other patrol officer would be. He explained that he’d seen me from his walk downtown and he wanted to introduce himself.

I’ll always remember that about him. I was struck by how humble he appeared. Not only was he not above walking the streets like any other KPD officer, but that he would take time to come over and say hello was really impressive. I was happy to meet him officially and grateful to be treated like a human being by KPD’s chief for the first time in years.

Then, early in 2016, Brian called me out of the blue and asked me for help. There was a bad batch of heroin that had been hitting the streets and leading to overdoses. He had reached out to me as the publisher of Free Keene (Keene’s most popular blog and a Google news source), hoping that I would help get the word out about the bad batch of drugs. Of course I would. Though I’m against the war on drugs and it was Brian’s job to enforce it, we found common ground in the goal of harm reduction. I told him I’d get on it, thanked him for thinking of me, and immediately published this article about the bad dope. When I share goals with someone, despite our differences, I’m willing to work with them to accomplish our common goals. This builds bridges between people on opposite sides of other issues, increasing the likelihood of further communication and a growing mutual respect. Brian understood this, and he earned my respect by being a decent person.

Now, he’s gone from this world, and WAY too soon. Whoever is chosen as his permanent replacement has some BIG shoes to fill. I really wish I could have gotten to know Brian better. I feel like I missed out. (more…)

A Thin Blue Line

As part of a growing trend around the country, Keene city councilor Philip Jones made a recommendation to the Municipal Services, Facilities and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday to paint a blue line down the center of Marlboro St in downtown Keene. This effort “would serve as a reminder that they (Keene Police Department) always have the support of the local community.”

Most attending the hearing spoke favorably of the service provided by KPD but there were some concerns over the precedent this request would create; what over city departments and organizations would want their own personalized line painted in the street next?

As the only dissenting voice at the hearing, I explained my concerns over this “every cop gets a trophy mentality.” Recognition should only be given to those who have gone above and beyond and never handed out simply because you wear a special uniform. This blue line creates a statement that “all” police should be recognized as heroes regardless of their performance.

The request was ultimately postponed until next hearing in order to gather more information regarding  the final cost and equipment needed.

Sentinel report:

A City Council committee postponed making a decision on a proposal to paint a blue traffic line down Marlboro Street to show appreciation for Keene’s police officers.

At a meeting of the municipal services, facilities and infrastructure committee Wednesday night, Vice Chairman Randy L. Filiault said city staff need more time to answer questions about the proposal’s cost and research how similar projects have gone over in other communities.

The proposal came before the council last week after Ward 5 Councilor Philip M. Jones filed a memo asking that city staff paint a blue line down the middle of Marlboro Street to show support and respect for the services provided by members of the city’s police department. (more…)

Heroin Brand “Hollywood” Allegedly Causing Overdoses in Keene and Mass.

Brian Costa, Keene Police Chief

Brian Costa, Keene Police Chief

According to new Keene Police Chief Brian Costa, the holiday weekend saw multiple heroin overdoses in Keene and Western Massachusetts from a batch of heroin allegedly branded “Hollywood”. Please get the word out to anyone you know that may be a user to beware of the Hollywood brand.

Kudos to Brian for taking the time to reach out with the news this afternoon. I support harm reduction, and getting the word out about bad drugs can accomplish that, while arresting users can increase the harm to their lives. Hopefully we’ll see Keene police doing more informing rather than arresting and prosecuting in the future.

Inconsistency in heroin quality batch-to-batch is a consequence of the black market created by the war on drugs, which leads to accidental overdose. If heroin were legal, as it was a few generations ago, then the purity would be lab-controlled. No one has to worry about overdosing on aspirin, unless that’s their intention.

I look forward to the day when heroin, a useful medical drug in many ways, can be sold legally through people who care about quality and their customers. A day when people who are addicted to drugs aren’t afraid to seek help for fear of being prosecuted and imprisoned by the state.

Until that day, I’m happy to assist Keene police when they are doing something helpful. Further, thanks to Brian for treating me like a human being, unlike his predecessor.

Union Leader: “BearCat brouhaha revs up Keene”

Meghan Pierce of The Union Leader covers the growing resistance to the militarization of Keene’s streets with the article in today’s paper:

KEENE — Thanks, but no tanks. That’s what some residents are saying in opposition to a city plan to purchase an armored vehicle for emergency response.

An outcry resulted after the City Council accepted a $285,933 Homeland Security grant in December — without a public hearing — to buy a LENCO BearCat Special Missions armored vehicle. Now the BearCat’s fate awaits the City Council’s final decision, expected at its March 1,7 p.m., meeting at Keene City Hall.

The city’s reconsideration of the grant got national media attention, including an article in the Huffington Post, sparking thousands of comments online about the role of the federal government.

Mike Clark, a 27-year-old handyman currently facing a criminal mischief charge in Keene — and the son of the sole Keene council member to vote against accepting the Homeland Security money — told the Huffington Post he has had encounters with Keene police and was “roughed up” both times.

“The police are already pretty brutal,” Clark said. “The last thing they need is this big piece of military equipment to make them think they’re soldiers.” (more…)

Concord Monitor Reports on Keene’s Daily Cannabis Celebrations

cannabisThanks to the Concord Monitor’s Ray Duckler for this report:

Rich Paul smokes pot. So do dozens of his new friends. Each day lately, in Central Square, right in the middle of Keene.

They huff and they puff and they blow the smoke out, daring the police to arrest them while they make their point. Smoking pot, they believe, should be legal, because smoking pot is their constitutional right. The war on drugs creates violence and unnecessarily jams our prisons, they say.

And Paul alluded to these points yesterday, telling about 100 people through a bullhorn. His voice was measured yet confident. The rally started in the afternoon, at 4:20, the insider’s term for pot smoking. No one seems to know why. Nobody seems to care, either. (more…)