Former police officer criticizes redacted state police report on Carlson

Posted Aug. 06, 2012, at 7:59 p.m.
The Rev. Bob Carlson
The Rev. Bob Carlson
Brian Gagan
Brian Gagan

BANGOR, Maine — A former Maine police officer is criticizing the heavily redacted Maine State Police report issued last week that determined the Rev. Robert Carlson was a serial child sex abuser who went undetected for decades.

“Too much is inarguably being covered up,” Westbrook native Brian Gagan, who worked as a patrol officer in Westbrook and Scarborough and now lives in Arizona, said in a telephone interview Monday. “Secrecy is only necessary in law enforcement when a prosecution or prosecutorial investigation is under way.”

Lt. Christopher Coleman, commander of the Maine State Police’s Major Crimes Unit for the northern part of the state, on Monday was sent several of Gagan’s criticisms about the 104-page Carlson investigative report released last week.

“We are not going to dignify that accusation with a comment,” the lieutenant said in an email. “Many state police reports are redacted pursuant to the appropriate laws. These laws afford protections to the privacy of victims and witnesses, among others.”

Title 16 of the Maine Revised Statutes says that law enforcement and other agencies may not release to the public investigative records that contain the names of witnesses, victims, confidential sources and techniques and procedures used by police not generally known by the public.

Carlson jumped to his death from the Penobscot Narrows Bridge on Nov. 13, 2011, three days after state police began their investigation into allegations that he sexually abused a boy, and just a dozen hours after Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross, his longtime friend, informed him about the criminal probe.

“It’s impossible to check the accuracy and veracity of the report because of the redaction,” Gagan said. “My reaction is: This thing was ignored for far too long. It sends alarming signals to me.”

Gagan was one of four former police officers who conducted a “psychological autopsy” of the domestic violence homicides that occurred in Dexter on June 13, 2011. Their report, released in November 2011, evaluated the murders of Amy Lake and her two children by her estranged husband, who also killed himself. The report states the family might be alive today if law enforcement and court officials had handled the case differently and taken his guns away.

In the Carlson investigation, “there was a significant amount of material gathered which contained personal information and is protected from disclosure,” Coleman said, explaining the redactions. “We are not going to get into the number of pages.”

Gagan said that in his opinion, “when the state police don’t disclose stuff it means there is stuff they don’t want disclosed. … It’s a coverup.”

“Their unwillingness to be fully disclosing on the Carlson case [is] unconscionable and wrong for Maine’s taxpayers,” the former police officer said.

State police investigators went to the home of Carlson’s widow on Monday, Aug. 6, to inform her about the findings of the eight-month investigation.

They also stopped by to see Sheriff Ross.

“We gave Mrs. Carlson a heads up that the report was being released because she was Mr. Carlson’s wife, and to Sheriff Ross, as a professional courtesy,” Coleman said.

Elaine Carlson left the state the following day, the Rev. Carl Schreiber, pastor of the East Orrington Congregational Church, where Carlson was a senior pastor for 25 years, said last week, and Ross also is now on vacation.

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