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Whistleblower Speaks Out on Suspected Elder Abuse

As a 42-year veteran officer of New Hampshire's Portsmouth police department, John Connors is serious about his duty to protect the community, and that includes from elder abuse. When his wealthy elderly neighbor Geraldine Webber, already in her nineties, began receiving frequent visits from fellow officer Aaron Goodwin in 2010, Connors sensed something was amiss. His cause for concern was genuine; two weeks after she met Goodwin, Webber told Connors that the younger police officer had fallen in love, would soon leave his wife and children to move in with her, and that she would 'give him everything.'

By that time it was clear that Webber's diagnosed dementia was manifesting, but what was the role of Goodwin? Did he encourage such a delusion through undue influence? The motive for manipulation was simple - Webber bragged that she was rich, even showing her neighbor $30-40,000 in hundred-dollar bills hidden in a silverware drawer. Indeed, Webber's estate turned out to be worth $2.1 million, and Sgt. Goodwin continued to visit the senior citizen practically everyday while on duty. In his off-time he also took Webber on trips to bars and casinos.

Connors continued to sound the alarm on Goodwin's behavior in relation to Webber, but nobody in a position of authority wanted to listen. He tried voicing his concerns with higher-ups at various points, only to find an attitude of indifference or even acceptance. We're fortunate to have Connors' statements from his Feb. 26th deposition, showing that he made every effort to alert his superiors to potential wrong doing. Let's catalogue some of these statements:

  • "When I made my complaints to the Police Department and the higher ups, nobody would listen to me."
  • "One commissioner said 'good for them' if the officer and his lawyer could get some of the neighbor's 'ton of money.'"
  • "I told [the then police chief] you're not going to believe what's going on next door to my house, the stuff with Aaron Goodwin...I said, he's over there all the time, and he just didn't want to hear it. He just looked at me and kind of smirked and shrugged his shoulders."
  • "[The former police commissioner] bends over and he goes, you know what, she's got a ton of money, if they can get in there and get some of it and get away with it, good for them."
  • "I didn't want this going public. I didn't want this on the PD, as bad as it was looking, because 95 percent of the guys that work there are the greatest guys in the world. You got a handful that aren't OK, and that's what this is all about."

Once Goodwin shopped around for a lawyer (several refused) to have Webber transfer the bulk of her estate to him just months before her death in 2012, his visits to his elderly "friend" dwindled to around once a week for ten to fifteen minutes. Connors, meanwhile, was served with a Portsmouth PD notice of complaint that accuses him of insubordination, malfeasance, and violation of the department's media policy, but he refuses to stay silent.

Standing up and speaking out on real or suspected elder abuse is a brave act, and Connors should be commended rather than punished. Let's protect whistleblowers who point out a simple truth: the difference between right and wrong.

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