BANGOR, Maine — The Penobscot County Law Enforcement Association had to return all donations it collected recently from other law enforcement officers during a fundraising effort to benefit the cancer-stricken wife of a Penobscot County sheriff’s deputy, Sheriff Glenn Ross said Tuesday.
“The money was being raised for the wife of one of our deputies, and today our deputies are at her funeral,” the sheriff said.
An email sent to law enforcement officers around the state months ago telling them about the ill woman violated Maine’s police solicitations law because it asked for money, Ross said.
“People can give voluntarily, without being asked, and that certainly did occur,” the sheriff said.
Brenda Kielty, a special assistant in the Maine Attorney General’s Office, explained that when the person in charge of the Penobscot County fundraising effort emailed law enforcement officers outside of the department, he or she violated state law.
“Because law enforcement officers, associations, or agencies who are not members of the PCLEA [Penobscot County Law Enforcement Association] or their immediate families are considered members of the ‘general public,’ that solicitation was in violation of the police solicitations law,” she said last week in an email.
At least one local area police officer is upset that the money he gave was returned to him.
“If we can’t take care of each other, that’s wrong,” the veteran local police officer, who asked not to be identified, said recently.
Maine’s police solicitations law prohibits a law enforcement agency, association or officer from soliciting from the general public if the money raised benefits the agency, association or an officer.
“I think that is a good law because people feel pressured to give” when approached by someone in uniform, said Ross.
Law enforcement can raise funds for an officer or an immediate family member who is suffering from a catastrophic illness as long as certain conditions, established beforehand by the Maine Attorney General’s Office, are met. They also may solicit the general public for charitable causes.
Since the Penobscot County email solicitation had already been sent by the time the Attorney General’s Office was asked to look into the matter, it was too late to establish rules, Kielty indicated.
The Attorney General’s Office “offered the PCLEA an informal resolution of this unintentional violation, which included the PCLEA sending a notice to those law enforcement agencies acknowledging its mistake, and returning all funds received to the donors,” she said.
“I understand why the law is in place,” the local police officer said. “But this is within law enforcement ranks. This is the wife of a deputy. This is family.”