Manchester police chief not happy after viewing video

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Readers: This story was updated at 10 a.m. Friday to correct that Jason Pergament was called to the scene by police.

MANCHESTER — A body cam video taken the night police broke up a large underage drinking party left Manchester Police Chief Michael Hall unhappy with what he saw.

The video was captured by a body cam worn by an officer with the Winhall Police Department, which had been called to back up Manchester officers.

The party took place on October 20 at a home on Smiths Hill Road owned by Jason Pergament, a Burr and Burton Academy teacher, who arrived on the scene not long after the officers. Pergament did not know about the party and was called to the scene. 

According to Pergament, he was called by police to the scene, despite telling dispatch that he did not want to come.

Pergament ended up pleading guilty to three misdemeanor charges for his actions on the evening. He's made full restitution, apologized to the students, faculty and others, and has taken steps to make amends for his actions.

Hall said the video shows that his officers didn't step in and take control of the situation when they should have.

"That's what we are supposed to be doing," Hall said. "It's clear that didn't happen and it should have."

When asked for more details, Hall pointed back to the video.

"I think the video speaks for itself."

The Manchester Journal obtained a copy of the video but has chosen not to release it because it identifies teenagers who did not run away when police arrived.

The video recording begins with the officer walking up to the house. Soon, he is in the back where a half dozen youth were sitting on the back deck.

A few minutes in, as the Winhall officer talks with Manchester officer Paul McGann, Pergament is seen walking through the house where he stops to pick up what appears to be two cell phones and exits out the back door. He asks who's phones they are and McGann said he doesn't know.

Pergament walks over to the seated kids and begins yelling at them, which continues as police officers from Manchester and Winhall stand nearby. Manchester officer Darrin Jennings appears in the video and begins talking to McGann and the Winhall officer. About 30 seconds after he began yelling, McGann said something that is hard to understand followed by, "he's mad."

A second later Pergament slams the cell phone off the deck.

No officers step in to intervene. A couple of the kids try to calm Pergament down, but at least one continues to argue, keeping Pergament riled up.

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Another 25 seconds pass and Pergament can be heard saying, "You're lucky all these cops are here."

No officers take an action or say anything to Pergament or the kids as yelling continues.

The officer wearing the body cam and another Winhall officer go to the front of the home to look at damage to cars a third Winhall officer witnessed when Pergament arrived.

"Why are they letting him do that?" the officer wearing the camera asks, referring to Pergament yelling at the kids.

A few moments later he asks another officer, "Why did [officer] Paul [McGann] just let him do that? Did you see how he was talking to the kids up there?"

When the officer with the camera goes back around behind the house, Pergament is still yelling at the kids. It's been almost exactly 4 minutes since he started. There are no longer any officers on the back deck, just the kids and Pergament.

At that point, the Winhall officer wearing the body cam gestures for Pergament to step inside the house, follows him inside and tells him to "concentrate on the house please and stop talking to the kids."

The pair then have an exchange in which the officer tells him, "It's not my town, but if it was my town, you'd be coming with me right now. Your behavior is unacceptable."

Instead, the Manchester officers let Pergament leave and make a date for him to come to the station the following week. Hall said he wasn't happy with what he saw on the video.

"Well, I think it's fair to say that had some intervention taken place when [Pergament] first showed up on scene in such an agitated state that we probably wouldn't have been where we ended up," Hall said. "We don't have control over people's behaviors, but at some point, we have to take control of their behavior. And I think that's where my concern is. We needed to be in more control of that situation."

Hall said the police didn't do what they should have.

"I can't justify bad behavior on the part of the police when we don't do what we should be doing," Hall said. "I'm not any happier about it than anybody who watches that."

Hall said some might question why the Winhall officer didn't act, but Hall said it was a Manchester scene and it's up to Manchester officers to take action.

"They were there to assist us and essentially its our responsibility to handle it and take care of it," Hall said. "The lead agency is the one that takes control of the situation. They were there to back us up."

Hall also said the lack of action contributed to the problems.

"I think this would have been less of an event had police interceded and interacted with him earlier on," Hall said. This guy was out of control for a long time. He should have been shut down early on. There's absolutely no reason for that to have happened except that we didn't do what we should have done."

Contact Darren Marcy at dmarcy@manchesterjournal.com or by cell at 802-681-6534.


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