BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor police detective charged last week with drunken driving tested well above the legal limit for blood alcohol content, according to Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy.
Almy said Friday the charge was lodged against Detective Erik Tall after someone contacted Bangor police about 6:30 p.m. Oct. 3 to say an on-duty detective was intoxicated at the Airport Mall on Union Street. Fellow police officers went to check on him.
Lt. Mark Hathaway, the city’s interim police chief, charged Tall with operating under the influence, Almy said.
“A person had given information that he had been drinking and they went and checked,” the district attorney said, referring to Tall’s fellow police officers.
Police used an Intoxilyzer test that showed Tall’s blood alcohol level was 0.13, Almy said.
The state’s legal limit for driving a vehicle is 0.08.
On Thursday, City Manager Cathy Conlow, without naming the person involved, said a Bangor Police Department employee was placed on unpaid leave Oct. 3 pending the outcome of an external investigation into the employee’s alleged misconduct.
Other Bangor police officers and Maine State Police troopers have faced drunken driving charges over the years that Almy’s office has prosecuted, the district attorney recalled.
“It’s happened before and we’ll deal with it just like everybody else,” Almy said of the case against Tall.
A 24-year veteran of the state police was charged in June with operating her state police cruiser while under the influence of alcohol.
Sgt. Julie Bergan, 54, who works out of the Houlton barracks, was charged after she reported for work in her state police-issued cruiser and her supervisor, Lt. Mark Brooks, and several co-workers saw her behaving in what they believed to be an erratic manner. She was given and failed field sobriety and blood-alcohol content tests, state police Lt. Col. Raymond Bessette said after the charges were filed.
Her attorney entered a not guilty plea on her behalf in August. Bergan was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation conducted by Lt. Erik Baker, who heads the Internal Affairs Division at state police headquarters in Augusta, Bessette said.
The last time a Bangor police officer was charged with drunken driving “was 25 years ago, in April 1987,” Conlow said. “He was suspended for five weeks and required to go into treatment. He never touched another drink.”
The police officer, who retired from the police department in 2007 after 36 years on the force, was “a stellar employee and is a good guy,” Conlow said.
He continues to volunteer for the city’s parks and recreation department, she said.
A drunken driving charge against a police officer does not automatically result in the person being fired, said Almy, who is district attorney for both Penobscot and Piscataquis counties.
“It depends on the person and depends on the circumstances,” he said, adding that city officials have the job of making that decision.
Of the two most recent law enforcement OUI charges his office handled, “One officer did not lose his job and the other one did,” Almy said.
Tall, a 15-year veteran of the Bangor police force who has spent the last three years keeping tabs on the the city’s roughly 200 registered sex offenders, could not be reached for comment. He is scheduled to be in court on Nov. 14.
Before he joined the Bangor police force, Tall worked for the Orono Police Department and the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office, according to the Bangor Daily News archives.
Conlow said Thursday that Hathaway handled the Oct. 3 incident with professionalism.
“He immediately took all of the actions to make sure that the matter was handled in an appropriate manner,” the city manager said in a statement. “He came in and took the steps necessary to protect the rights of the employee, the needs of the public and the needs of the [police] department.”
Conlow declined to reveal which police agency is conducting the external investigation, but she did say it would be a couple of weeks before it’s completed.
BDN writers Dawn Gagnon, Jen Lynds and Nick Sambides contributed to this report.