NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 6, 2014

Feds take lead in Seabrook police probe

SEABROOK — Local police are postponing their internal affairs investigation into a 2009 alleged police brutality incident so as not to interfere with criminal investigations being conducted by the FBI, N.H. Attorney General and U.S. Attorney’s offices.

According to Seabrook police Chief Lee Bitomske, state and federal investigators are delving into a Nov. 11, 2009, video taken by a police station camera showing a potential case of police brutality at the Seabrook police station. The video shows Seabrook resident Michael J. Bergeron Jr., 19 at the time, being slammed into the wall while being escorted down a hall by three officers after he was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated and drug possession.

The video, released on YouTube early last month, stunned the town, making local, state and national news cycles for days. It brought immediate response from state and federal officials, who promised to determine if criminal charges should be brought concerning police brutality and possible federal civil rights violations.

Last month, Bitomske and Deputy Chief Michael Gallagher promised outraged residents that the Seabrook Police Department would also conduct its own investigation to determine if any of the department’s own policies were violated by any officer involved. Gallagher is the department’s trained internal affairs investigator.

But yesterday, Bitomske said, he and Gallagher will take a step back while FBI agents and the AG’s personnel are interviewing witnesses.

“The Seabrook Police Department has agreed to delay the commencement of our investigation for a short period of time to allow investigators from the (New Hampshire office of the) U.S. Attorney and the New Hampshire Attorney General to complete their investigation,” Bitomske said.

The decision was made, he said, to ensure there is no confusion by potential witnesses as to whether they are required to be interviewed. In police internal affairs investigations, all police personnel are required to submit to interviews, Bitomske said, while they are not similarly required in state and federal investigations.

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