CROYDON, N.H. – A New Hampshire police chief stripped down to his underwear and walked into a snowstorm after being stripped of his duties at a local board meeting Tuesday night.
Richard Lee was the police chief for nearly 20 years until a three-member selectboard voted to rely solely on coverage from the New Hampshire State Police during the meeting. The small town chief worked part-time as the only member of the department.
Despite tensions, Lee was caught off guard by the move. He was told to immediately turn in his guns and uniform as well as the keys to his police cruiser, reported Valley News.
As a result, he did as he was told — on the spot. Lee removed his gear and uniform before the board chairman.
“I gave them my uniform shirt. I gave them my turtleneck, I gave them my ballistic vest. … I sat down in the chair, took off my boots, took off my pants, put those in the chair, and put my boots back on, and walked out the door,” Lee said.
He didn’t have spare clothes or a ride home, so Lee began a seven mile trek in 26-degree temperatures before his wife picked him up about a mile into his journey.
Lee said that if he had left with his gear he feared the possibility of being arrested, even though the chairman, Russell Edwards, said the ex-chief’s actions were unnecessary.
“What can I do?” Lee said in an interview with Valley News at his home on Wednesday, recalling his thoughts as the vote went through. “I’m done.”
“This is what they demanded and this is what I’m doing,” he said.
Edwards released a statement Wednesday saying the decision to remove Lee “was an action based upon value for the cost of the department,” according to the news organization.
He added that state police cover incidents in the town of 700 residents about 81 percent of the time, Fox News reported.
Lee, who planned to retire in a year and a half, said he would miss the people of Croydon. He said he’s formed a close connection with people in the town, often stopping by to visit, eat lunch with them, or check in on some of the elderly residents who live alone.
“If there’s something I was doing wrong, tell me,” Lee said, adding that he still doesn’t know why his position was terminated. “I can’t get anybody to answer the question.”
There were a few messages left on the town’s Facebook page in support of the dismissed chief.
“What you did to your police chief is beyond despicable,” wrote Robert Edward.
“Public safety isn’t a concern for town officials,” noted Adrian Acevedo.
“What a disgrace, forcing someone who worked for so long to be forced by your board to the streets in a snowstorm in only underwear. You should be ashamed,” posted Evan Martin.
Lee said he’s still unsure whether he’s been fired or if he’s merely “out of work.” He is discussing what happened with his attorney.