Sex abuse cases reverting to county

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WILTON – Juvenile sexual abuse cases in Wilton are once again being investigated by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department because the district attorney believes they are not being adequately handled.

Sheriff’s detectives began running those investigations in 2004 but turned them back over when Wayne Gallant became chief in February 2005 because he had the qualifications to investigate. He left office Dec. 5, 2006 to become Oxford County sheriff.

In a Jan. 25 letter to Wilton police Chief Dennis Brown, who was hired Jan. 2, District Attorney Norman Croteau gave the directive that the county would once again take over the child sex abuse cases.

“Our concerns expressed in the past regarding the department’s inappropriate and inadequate response to calls for service remain in effect,” the letter said.

Croteau, Assistant District Attorney Jim Andrews, Brown and others met last week to discuss the issues mentioned in the letter, Brown said.

“I’m not sure if the D.A.’s office knows anything about my training or experience handling juvenile matters, so I’m writing a memo in which I will lay out those certifications,” Brown said Tuesday. “I’m hoping (Croteau) will explain to me what extra steps I may take,” he added.

But, he said, though he’s unfamiliar with the department’s history, he is committed to working with the D.A.’s office and the department to resolve whatever issues there are.

The D.A.’s concerns about Wilton’s juvenile crime investigations aren’t about Brown, Andrews said. “He seems like a top-notch kind of guy. I look forward to working with him.

“It’s basically because we have some continuing concerns about these investigations in general at the Wilton Police Department. Those concerns are similar or identical (to the ones in 2004),” Andrews said.

The concerns relate to the way the department has responded to domestic violence and sexual assault cases, he said. “It’s a public safety issue with regard to steps being taken … to ensure the victim or complainant is kept safe,” he said. “We have a high standard to meet, and unless we get a complete and accurate investigation, we don’t have the ammunition we need.”

For now, Sheriff’s Department Detective David St. Laurent will handle the investigations.

Brown said he hopes to take over the cases soon, and if it will help, he said, to also give his officers additional training.

“There are going to have to be changes made to the way the department functions with regard to these cases,” Andrews said. “This is not about (Brown). This is about the underlying atmosphere in the department.”

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