Hancock County deputy suspended after cruiser struck deer at 92 mph

Posted Nov. 04, 2011, at 11:52 a.m.
Last modified Nov. 04, 2011, at 5:15 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — A Hancock County sheriff’s deputy was suspended for one day last month after he struck a deer while driving more than 90 mph on his way home, causing more than $8,000 in damage to the police cruiser.

The crash happened just before 3 a.m. Oct. 6 while Deputy Christopher Sargent was returning home from a complaint at speeds he later acknowledged were unnecessary. While driving on Route 172 in Ellsworth, Sargent was unable to avoid a deer standing in the road.

The patrol car’s on-board camera showed Sargent was driving 92 mph at the time of the accident, although earlier in the trip he had reached speeds in excess of 100 mph, according to documents provided by the Sheriff’s Department.

The collision caused enough damage to Sargent’s cruiser — listed as a 2008 Ford — that the Hancock County commissioners voted earlier this week to purchase a new car for $26,100 rather than repair the vehicle. Sargent, who immediately disclosed his excessive speed to a superior officer, suffered minor injuries in the crash.

In an Oct. 7 letter notifying Sargent of his suspension, Hancock County Sheriff William Clark reminded the deputy that rules require officers to operate their cruisers “safely and properly in full compliance with all traffic laws.”

“Your operation on this date violates this general order,” Clark wrote. “Although accidents are often unavoidable, especially car/deer accidents, had you been operating your cruiser at a reasonable speed, you may have been able to avoid striking the deer and, if not, at least the damage could have been minimized.”

Sargent was suspended without compensation for one day in late October. Clark also informed the deputy that as a result of the incident he would not receive a new patrol car for one budget year. The new cruiser being purchased by the county will be given to another officer at the department.

It does not appear that Sargent was immediately charged with any violations. In correspondence sent to the BDN on Friday morning, Clark declined to comment further on the incident. He could not be reached Friday afternoon.

Sargent apparently made no attempt to hide his speed from his superiors, however.

Sargent told Lt. Tim Cote before the supervising officer’s arrival at the accident scene that he “had probably been going faster than he should have been,” according to a memo that Cote filed on the incident. Soon thereafter, while Cote was taking Sargent to the hospital for treatment, Sargent told him that his on-board camera placed his speed at 92 mph when he struck the deer.

“I asked Deputy Sargent why he had been going at that rate of speed and he stated that there was no excuse and he was not going to try to make one up,” Cote wrote.

On Tuesday, the Hancock County commissioners voted to replace the damaged cruiser after receiving a briefing from the Sheriff’s Department. Commissioner Steven Joy declined to comment on the crash, saying that the commissioners’ purview dealt with what to do with the car.

“The decision we had to make was whether a vehicle with 100,000 miles on it should be repaired or should we take that money and purchase a new one,” Joy said.

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