Saying Goodbye to Police Veterans

Two Retire From Police Department

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, March 6, 2012

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Hampton Sgt. Steve Henderson, right, presents officer
Richard Bateman with a letter from Congressman Charles
Bass during his retirement party in Exeter Friday night.
At left is Deputy Chief Richard Sawyer.
[Ioanna Raptis Photo]

HAMPTON -- The Hampton Police Department recently said goodbye to two officers who are retiring after long careers, one who was the first full-time female road patrolman in the department and another who served 40 years on the part-time police force during the summer.

Stoessel called retiring bittersweet. Being a detective was her childhood dream.

"I am going to miss the craziness and the excitement that each and every new call or case brings with it," Stoessel said. "I am going to miss making a difference in people's lives."

Bateman - who also served the town as a selectman from 2008 to 2011 - said it was time to turn in his badge.

"Forty years is a long time," Bateman said. "I feel like I had a really good run over the years despite the number of times I have been sent to the hospital."

Hampton Police Chief Jamie Sullivan said both officers will be missed. Sullivan called Stoessel a trailblazer as she was the first female in the department that really worked the roads - in a profession dominated by men. "Laura was the first female police officer at our department that spent her entire career on the streets as a patrolman," Sullivan said.

Stoessel joined the department in 1983 as a part-time officer. She was promoted to full-time officer in 1986.

Being a petite female, Stoessel said the physical aspects of the job were challenging.

"I quickly learned to find alternative solutions that worked for me or when needed, I would just ask for help," Stoessel said.

But she admits being one of the few female officers on the job was not always a day in the park.

"Anytime a female breaks into a male-dominated field they experience a unique set of challenges, and police work was no exception," Stoessel said. "Being the first full-time female officer in Hampton had its highs and lows, but I have chosen not to dwell on any negative experiences I may have encountered along the way."

"I must say, though, that even after almost 30 years on the job, I still don't completely understand the way men think," she joked.

Sullivan said Stoessel spent the last eight years as a detective and there were numerous cases where she was "instrumental in bringing them to conclusion."

Stoessel said those were her proudest moments on the job.

"My greatest satisfaction has always come from closing difficult cases," Stoessel said. "Especially those cases that end with a confession, cases that involved physical violence or child victims, or cases that started out with low solvability factors committed by people dangerous to the community." Sgt. Steve Henderson said Stoessel was an amazing officer.

"She worked hard to get where she was and became one of the great detectives in Hampton," said Henderson. "But the big thing about Laura was her dedication to the job and the town."

Sullivan said it was that dedication that made her stay on for a couple of extra months, even though she already filed the paperwork to retire.

"There was a significant sexual assault case that she wanted to see come to a conclusion," Sullivan said.

Henderson joked that Bateman has been at the department since "the beginning of time."

Henderson said Bateman played a big role in establishing the N.H. Congressional Law Enforcement Awards and was a longtime volunteer for the Police Unity Tour, which raises money in support of the National Law Enforcement Museum.

"But Dick's pride and joy was being a motorcycle cop," Henderson said. Bateman - whose full-time job is teaching - joined the ranks as a part-time officer for the department in 1971.

"The order at the time was to take back the streets," Bateman recalled. Bateman said his second week on the job came during the infamous 1971 riot at the Jethro Tull concert at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom.

"Talk about a baptism," Bateman said. "I knew I was in trouble when they threw my motorcycle over me."

Bateman said the toughest moment on the job in his 40-year career came when he had to tell a parent that their 4-year-old was struck and killed by a car on Ocean Boulevard.

While he suspected the driver was under the influence of drugs, Bateman said back then they didn't have the tools they do now to prove it.

He ended up arresting the driver of that car later in another case for drugs. "He went away for three years but it will never compensate the loss of that child," Bateman said.

"There were tough days but there was also a lot of laughs," Bateman said. Bateman recalled one time they actually arrested God.

"She didn't like us," Bateman said. "She was obviously psychotic but she said she was God."

Bateman said he's looking forward to the next chapter in his life. He has taken a teaching position at a community college in Maine.

Stoessel said she's going to spend some time with her family before returning to the work force.

Bateman said he will never forget the men and women of the Hampton Police Department.

"Each one of these people at some time had my back in a life-and-death situation and I had it for them," Bateman said. "Those bonds, they last a lifetime."

Stoessel agreed.

"It's been a privilege and an honor to have stood alongside some of the bravest and finest officers in the area, the members of the Hampton Police Department," Stoessel said.

Hampton Deputy Chief Richard Sawyer prepares to present
Detective Laura Stoessel with her retirement badge Friday night.
[Ioanna Raptis Photo]

HAMPTON-- Detective Laura Stoessel is retiring from the Hampton police Department after 29 years of service. She has the distinction of being the first full-time female road patrolman for the department. The Hampton Union recently chatted with Stoessel.

HAMPTON UNION: Why did you want to become a police officer?

STOESSEL: As a teenager, I always knew that I wanted to be a police officer, in particular, a detective. There weren't very many female officers in the state at the time and it just seemed like an exciting and challenging career choice for a woman to pursue. After taking a few criminal justice classes in college, I knew it was the right path for me and I decided to seek a degree in administration of criminal justice.

HAMPTON UNION: Most bothersome case?

STOESSEL: That's a difficult question. After investigating numerous and interesting types of cases it's hard to choose just one. I guess I would answer that my most bothersome case, is not really a case, it's more of an unsolved mystery that has followed me around since the mid '90s. For many, many years now, I am routinely asked if I am one of the characters in author Brendan Dubois' mystery novels.

As recently as a couple of months ago, I came down to the lobby to meet with a witness in a case. She was sitting quietly reading a book while she waited. As I walked across the lobby to greet her, she looked up and smiled broadly. I immediately recognized the book she was reading and prepared for the question. That politely phrased, often asked, annoying little question asked by curious readers with vivid imaginations.

I must admit I really don't know the answer to the question. I've never asked Brendan, I don't think I ever will. After all, it's been an awfully long time since I've seen him.

I'm not sure which I find more interesting, being the person or inspiration that a character in a mystery novel is based upon, or just having people think that I am. Either way, it's an ongoing mystery that remains unsolved.

HAMPTON UNION: What are you going to miss the most?

STOESSEL: I will miss my co-workers. The co-workers that were such a big part of my life for so many years. Some have long retired, some recently retired, some still work here. I will miss these co-workers and friends, these officers and detectives, the ones that have stood beside me during dangerous calls, witnessing horrific tragedies and human suffering so many times. The ones who stand straight-faced showing no emotion during sights that would make lesser men bend at the knee. I will miss these men who have taught me much and shared in the craziness called police work, the stuff that stories are made from.

HAMPTON UNION: What do you plan to do next?

STOESSEL: I may seek employment possibly in a supporting role in a police department or as a fraud investigator for a bank or insurance company, or maybe as a victim/witness advocate, or maybe I'll try something completely new and different. With a little creativity, the options are limitless. Who knows, maybe I'll even write a novel, about a mystery writer, a friendly man, with a white beard, who lives in a small town, with a small police department, near the shore. I'll be sure to call him "Brendan."

Deputy Chief Richard Sawyer, left, and Sgt. Steve Henderson,
right, present officer Richard Bateman with a shadowbox
of badges and patches at his retirement party.
[Ioanna Raptis Photo]