By DAMIEN FISHER, InDepthNH.org
As the dust settles from his misdemeanor conviction for sexually harassing a police officer, Litchfield’s Police Chief Benjamin Sargent has agreed to never again work as a police officer in New Hampshire.
Sargent’s attorney, Marc Beaudoin, appeared before the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council on Tuesday to inform the members about the decision to leave law enforcement.
“This was a hard decision for the chief to come to,” Beaudoin said. “He really enjoyed his career.”
Sargent agreed Tuesday to relinquish his certification to be a police officer, a decision accepted by the council. Sargent is currently working out his exit from his job in Litchfield, having agreed with the town’s selectmen to resign his post earlier this month. Beaudoin told the council Sargent has tendered his resignation in Litchfield, and the two sides are finalizing that process. Sargent has no plans to attempt to re-enter law enforcement as a career in the future, Beaudoin said.
Sargent’s fall from grace happened more than a year ago when he spent a drunken 24-hour period sending repeated texts to one of his female police officers proclaiming his love for her, according to court records. At one point, a distraught Sargent was driving drunk with a pistol in his mouth, according to the New Hampshire State Police report.
According to the affidavit, Sargent called the Alcoholic Anonymous hotline at some point during his emotional drinking binge, and told the phone counselor about the pistol. A suicide prevention hotline representative reached out to Litchfield police about the potential for Sargent’s self-harm, though Sargent later denied he told anyone he was suicidal or that he was driving with a gun in his mouth.
Last month, Sargent was convicted of one count of official oppression for harassing Litchfield Police Officer Taylor Dezotell. Official oppression is a class B misdemeanor which typically does not carry jail time as a penalty. He was fined the maximum amount of $1,200, plus $280 as a penalty assessment.
Sargent was placed on leave for close to a year before he was charged in December of 2022.
Sargent’s spiral started Dec. 31, 2021, at 7:08 p.m. when he and Dezotell had four phone conversations and two text exchanges over the next day. Dezotell reported that Sargent asked her about hearing he was driving around town with a gun in his mouth.
“Sargent explained (to Dezotell) that he was experiencing a lot of stress and that he had been drinking over the holidays and that his wife was not happy with him,” Scott Gilbert, an investigator at the Attorney General’s Office, wrote in the affidavit.
“Sargent stated that he felt everyone was betraying him and that he was worried Dezotell would betray him too,” Gilbert wrote.
According to Dezotell, Sargent continued to say that his wife was not happy with him, that he had a “Taylor problem” and that he had a “crush” on Dezotell, who tried to change the topic.
Dezotell repeatedly asked him what a Taylor problem meant and he eventually said it meant he loved her, the affidavit said.
Sargent told her to bring wine to his home after her next call and he would tell her about “his feelings” toward her in person, she told Gilbert. She told him she couldn’t buy wine in uniform.
“When speaking with Attorney Saint-Marc, Sargent acknowledged making knowing and purposeful comments to Dezotell but disputed the purpose of his comments. Sargent generally denied expressing romantic or sexual interest in Dezotell during their conversations…” Gilbert wrote.
When Dezotell mentioned her husband and son in one call saying they were “good,” Sargent said, “Well that f—- up my shit because I’m getting a divorce.”
The fourth phone call was Jan. 1, 2022, at 12:50 p.m. in which, according to Dezotell, Sargent still sounded intoxicated, Gilbert wrote.
“Her move to the night schedule was discussed. Dezotell described being ‘bummed’ but understood. Sargent told her she should have come to him in advance as he could have helped her,” the affidavit said.
In the fourth phone call Dezotell said Sargent told her the Taylor problem definition: “It means I love you.” When Dezotell attempted to redirect the conversation, Sargent said he knows he’s “short and fat,” the affidavit said.