LANGDON — Among the small police departments that dot southwestern New Hampshire, many officers hold a full-time post in one town and a part-time job in another.
Less common is what Stephen Murrell has been doing since early May: leading two neighboring departments.
On May 1, the Alstead police chief became Langdon’s chief, too.
The Alstead position is full-time; the Langdon gig about 15 hours a week. Murrell said he’s also a part-time officer in Walpole, an as-needed role without a set weekly workload.
“I just really try to pay attention to my schedule,” he said.
One other police chief in the area, Andrew Wood, holds a similar dual role. The full-time chief in Hancock, Wood has also been serving as the lieutenant in charge of the Richmond Police Department, though that will soon end. Richmond officials are phasing out the department and contracting with the county sheriff’s office for police coverage, an arrangement expected to begin this year.
Murrell took over in Langdon when Chief Raymond L’Abbe retired. A Langdon resident himself, Murrell said that factored into his decision to take the job.
“I live in Langdon,” he said. “I love the small-town policing. That’s one of the reasons I ended up in Alstead.”
Murrell moved to New Hampshire in 2014 and worked as director of campus safety for Landmark College in Putney, Vt., before becoming Alstead’s chief in 2017, according to a bio on the Alstead Police Department website. Before that, he worked as a full-time police officer for the Andover Township Police Department in a rural part of New Jersey for about 15 years.
Selectman Lucien Beam, who chairs the Langdon Board of Selectmen, said Murrell was the best of the five candidates who applied. It was Murrell’s “experience, number one,” Beam said, and “his leadership abilities.” But it also helped that Murrell lives in town, he said.
Beam said Murrell is interim chief for six months. After that, if both he and the town are happy, the position would become permanent.
The Langdon Police Department consists of three part-time officers, including the chief.
Faced with high costs and staffing shortages, several small towns in the Monadnock Region have opted to forgo their own police departments. Gilsum and Sullivan contract for policing with the county sheriff’s office, as Richmond will soon do. Acworth, Surry and Westmoreland rely solely on N.H. State Police.
Beam said the Langdon selectmen looked at a few possible alternatives last year, but none made sense for the town. One idea was possibly merging the Alstead and Langdon departments into one — similar to the Temple-Greenville Police Department in southwestern Hillsborough County. But Beam said it would have been too costly.
Another possibility was State Police coverage. Lt. Mike Kokoski, the commander of the State Police troop covering Cheshire and Sullivan counties, spoke at an October selectmen’s meeting. He said two troopers are typically on duty in each county at any given time. Troopers eventually respond to every call, Kokoski said, but have to prioritize those involving life safety or property.
Beam said town officials worried about the potential for delays with State Police. “We opted not to go that route, and to continue the way that we are, with our little police force,” Beam said, “and do the best we can.”
Murrell said he remains interested in the idea of merging the Alstead and Langdon departments, if the towns can make it work. He stressed that there are no immediate plans to do so and that any such change would require voter approval. But heading both departments is an opportunity to study the issue further, he said.
“I’m just looking forward to working with the townspeople,” he said. “The town of Langdon and Alstead have been so good to me since I moved up here.”