Improved policing, for less money
To the Editor:
I'd like to think that this whole town police vs. county sheriff's deputies business began with our town officials asking how much more we might have to pay in order to have our policing done the way we should have it done. That is, with 24/7 coverage by officers trained so that they can handle whatever comes up, with free detective services available whenever needed, and with the administrative burden relieved from our shoulders.
Nobody is born knowing all the things that a cop needs to know, nor do they learn it in high school. This is why Maine has its police-training academy, and it is why some people major in law enforcement in college. Our practice has been to hire officers without this training, eventually send them to the academy to get it, watch them leave Bethel for somewhere else, hire more officers without this training, and so on.
Maine state law requires that any accident, incident or assault involving serious injury or death be investigated by a certified full-time academy graduate. Officers without this training can only assist in investigating such incidents; these officers can give speeding tickets on their own authority, but those are never the occasions when you are relieved to see a cop show up.
The county proposal does indeed include 24/7 coverage, though this fact is not clearly understood by all. There are 21 shifts in a week, and you can only expect the three regularly assigned deputies to cover 15 of these shifts. The other six shifts will be covered by fully trained officers, just not by the three regularly assigned deputies.
When something comes up that requires a detective, our practice has been to ask the county sheriff or the state police for a detective. It is not easy for a police chief to ask another law enforcement agency for assistance, and these detective services haven’t come for free.
Our practice has been to hire a police chief, then to dismiss him a few years later with much public hullabaloo, then to hire another police chief, and so on.
Imagine our town officials’ surprise to learn that all of this improved service — 24/7 coverage with trained officers, in-house detective services, all with administration included — can be had for less taxpayers’ money!