The victim of a New Hampshire police chief’s indecent proposition is speaking publicly for the first time. She says her experience with the official was “chilling” and that she plans to push for tougher legislation that would allow prosecutors to go after law enforcement personnel who abuse their power.
Speaking to New Hampshire’s Union Leader, Janelle Westfall said she still remains shaken after former New London Police Chief David Seastrand offered to drop underage drinking charges against her if she agreed to pose for nude photographs for him.
“It just bothers me that it happened, and that they couldn't prosecute (Seastrand). It bothers me that it could happen again to someone else,” Westfall said.
Westfall’s experience with the New London Police Department began in March 2013 when she was arrested by Seastrand while walking home from a party. According to arrest documents from the incident, Seastrand alleged that the 18-year-old college student was carrying a 12-ounce can of beer. He arrested her on charges of underage possession of alcohol and providing false information to authorities, according to a Valley News story.
A few days later, Westfall says, Seastrand called her to his office and said he would drop the charges if she posed nude for him.
“He said he would grab the station's camera to shoot a series of nude photos of me, and then he'd hold it over my head for two years to be sure I didn't commit another crime,” Westfall said during her recent interview.
“That's when it was really chilling,” she added. “He's standing there in uniform, he had his gun strapped on his side.”
Westfall refused and later filed a complaint with the state attorney general’s office.
Seastrand subsequently resigned his post and Westfall reached a $70,000 settlement with the town of New London. Seastrand is barred from ever working as a police officer again, but criminal charges were never filed against him.
State prosecutors explained to Westfall that the only applicable law for her case was an abuse of power statute that would have only resulted in a misdemeanor conviction for Seastrand if he were to be found guilty.
Westfall and her attorney, Richard Lehmann, say that’s insufficient and are now fighting for tougher laws. Along with Westfall’s father, Todd Westfall, they are working to draft new language for a statute and the penalty “has to be more than a misdemeanor,” Janelle Westfall said. She thinks on-body video cameras are also a good idea.
“We're not trying to be anti-cop, we have cops in the family,” Todd Westfall said. “It's just that the difference in power and prestige is so deep, a chief is going to be believed in a case like this and a young person may not be. There has to be an improvement somehow in this system.”