Report to help Hermon decide if it should change police service

By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff
Posted April 08, 2013, at 9:26 p.m.

HERMON, Maine — A review of the town’s police services by a three-member panel from the Maine Chiefs of Police Association has been completed and is being reviewed by town councilors, Town Manager Roger Raymond said late last week.

The independent assessment was conducted last month for a fee of $6,000. The team consisted of Falmouth Chief Ed Tolan, Yarmouth Chief Michael Morrill and Scarborough Chief Robert Moulton.

The panel’s nearly 70-page report, which was delivered to the town on Thursday, looks at the level of service Hermon receives through its arrangement with the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office, makes recommendations for upgrades if town councilors deem that appropriate, and gives suggestions for improvement.

The report was commissioned to help the town determine if it was feasible to form its own police department and find out how much that might cost.

The four options that the panel of police chiefs looked at for Hermon were: maintaining the status quo, adding a contracted supervisor through the sheriff’s department, forming its own full-service police department and contracting with the county for four full-time deputies.

Cost estimates for the options ranged from roughly $329,000 to $354,000 a year, with the exception of forming a new police department, which Raymond said the study team believes could cost as much as $1.3 million in the first year because it would require as much as $800,000 in construction, at least one clerical position and likely some contract services.

The councilors will consider the findings during a workshop later this month.

“At that point, I’ll be having a discussion with [Sheriff Glenn Ross] in regards to contracted services and from there the council will make a decision as to whether they want to continue with the current level [of service] or just tweak it or whether they want to contract 100 percent of the service with the sheriff’s [office] or run their own department,” Raymond said.

The town’s choice could be implemented as early as the coming fiscal year, which begins on July 1, Raymond said.

Though he said the decision is the council’s and the community’s to make, it is not likely that Hermon will establish its own police department at this time.

As it stands, Hermon’s police coverage is provided through an agreement with the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office, Raymond said.

The town covers the salaries of three full-time employees — a supervisory sergeant and two deputies — as well as a small pool of reserve officers and five vehicles, at a cost of roughly $325,000 a year.

The county provides backup, detective, clerical and training support. About 65 to 70 percent of the shifts are handled by officers assigned to Hermon while the rest are covered through the county contract. The Maine State Police fills gaps in coverage through a call-sharing agreement.

Raymond said it would take one more full-time employee to cover all the shifts.

Among the panel’s findings is that Hermon’s police services model is a “hybrid” seemingly intended to “take advantage of the services provided by the sheriff’s office department, while continuing to maintain Hermon’s own identity.”

The chiefs noted that Hermon’s model was difficult to understand at first since Hermon and Orrington are the only communities in Maine — and possibly in Maine and the United States — that use this model.

“Although the team clearly recognizes the community’s wishes in this regard, it also recognizes the inherent shortfalls with this model,” the report said. Among those shortfalls are that it can lead to communication problems and that it lacks a clear chain of command for Hermon officers, the sheriff’s office and the Maine State Police, the team said.

According to Raymond, the study of police services was prompted by the state’s biggest bath salts bust to date, a recent outcry over sex offender notification procedures and a proposal to post armed police officers in the town’s public schools.

In addition, the community last year saw an apparent drug-related home invasion shooting death.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/04/08/news/bangor/report-to-help-hermon-decide-if-it-should-change-police-service/ printed on July 24, 2014