February 23, 2018
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An open letter to Bangor’s police chief

By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN

Dear Mr. Gastia,

I saw you Thursday night at the kickoff party for the American Folk Festival.

Since I had left you two phone messages earlier in the day that you had chosen not to return, I assumed you were not interested in speaking with me.

It was a casual after-hours affair, so I didn’t bother you with official business. I chose to think that perhaps you were just busy on Thursday and might return my call on Friday.

But it was not to be.

I can’t say that I’m surprised since it has been nearly two years since the last time we actually spoke, ever since I wrote that column that disagreed with your decision to assign parking ticket quotas to your police officers.

Since then when we have run into one another you have made it clear in that mature, official manner that you have that I am no longer worthy of your attention.

That’s OK. Trust me, you’re not the only one who has ever felt that way. In fact, you are in some pretty good company.

Deputy Attorney General Bill Stokes got pretty steamed at me once a long time ago. Former Gov. John Baldacci ignored me for a while, as well. Your predecessors have all been peeved at me at one time or another — former Bangor police chiefs Dick Stockford and Randy Harriman, for example.

Col. Andrew Demers, who headed up the Maine State Police, wasn’t happy with me for a time when I was writing about the woman who was shot by police up in Jackman many, many years ago.

Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy? I’m sure I’ve made steam come out of his ears on more than one occasion. Same goes for former Attorney General Andrew Ketterer.

The late Penobscot County Sheriff Ed Reynolds took a dislike to me for a while, as well, as did Sheriff Glenn Ross. Former Bangor police Lt. Brian Cox really had no use for me at all.

And though I’ve not had the occasion to meet him in person yet, it’s probably a safe bet that Gov. Paul LePage is not one of my biggest fans.

Bangor City Councilor and former Mayor Pat Blanchette, former Bangor Schools Superintendent Sandy Ervin. Well, you get the picture.

Don’t get me wrong. I take no pride in the length of that list, but I see it as a cost of the profession, and I’ve been in the profession for a long time.

If reporters and columnists do their jobs well and do their jobs honestly, then chances are there are going to be times when certain people, especially those on the public payrolls, get angry and don’t like the outcome.

Same, I suppose, goes for your profession.

The large majority of the people listed above realize that. The majority of them seem to understand that their very public positions open them to a certain level of scrutiny that may sometimes be less than complimentary.

Most are or were mature professionals and confident enough in their positions to withstand criticism, perhaps even learn something from it.

Oh, sure, there is generally a respectable amount of time to which the offending reporter is sentenced to the “silent treatment,” but then everybody seems to agree that there is work to be done, stories to be told and everyone moves on.

See. We don’t have to have high affection for one another in order to be respectful and to do good work.

As I told you in one of the messages I left for you on Thursday, I had wanted to talk with you about the growing concern about the use of bath salts in our community. I wanted to talk with you about the concern that your officers must feel when facing a delusional and sometimes armed user. I wanted to ask you, as their chief, about the very real risk that an officer might have to use deadly force against that user.

I wanted to ask you for your suggestions to members of the public about what action to take if confronted with someone they believe may be on the drug.

I thought we could have a pretty good discussion that would be beneficial to members of the community. Because, see, I’m a writer and you are the police chief. I have a venue in which to print your sage and knowledgeable advice, and that can be a great and powerful combination.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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