HERMON, Maine — Residents can expect more interaction with local law enforcement officers as a result of the recent restructuring of the town’s police department.
Town Manager Roger Raymond said many of the changes are the result of a police services study that town councilors hired the Maine Chiefs of Police Association to conduct earlier this year to help identify Hermon’s law enforcement options.
Among the key changes is a new contract with the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office that provides the small local police department with management, training, detective and other services, Raymond said during a recent interview. The new contract eliminates ambiguity, he said.
“I looked at the [previous] agreement,” Raymond said. “It was very, very confusing. It actually contradicted itself in five or six different places, and I felt it was imperative for us to correct that.”
Also prompting town officials to reconsider police services were the state’s biggest bath salts bust to date, which occurred locally; a recent outcry over sex offender notification procedures and a proposal to post armed police officers in the town’s public schools from two business owners in the aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School last year.
The new agreement clarifies the chain of command. In the former pact, the supervisory sergeant was a town employee subject to the town’s policies as well as those of the sheriff’s office.
Now, supervising Sgt. James Kennedy is an employee of the sheriff’s department, while the town’s three patrol officers — Deputies Jay Hallett, David Quinn and Michael Parady — are town employees, Raymond said. Parady’s position was added earlier this year.
“It’s a matter of taking advantage of county government and regional policing and using it here in Hermon,” Raymond said.
He said that the addition of a fourth full-time officer increased patrol coverage in town to at least 120 hours in a 168-hour work week.
“This was a great opportunity to manage our cost and keep it very reasonable. We took a very large budget for part-time hours and made a full-time position,” he said.
The additional cost amounted to about $40,000, Raymond said, noting that last year’s police department budget totaled $323,628 compared to this year’s $363,701.
Kennedy has been with the sheriff’s office since 1988, when he was hired as a part-time employee at Penobscot County Jail. He left the jail as a sergeant and then moved on to the patrol division, where he served until he became Hermon’s police supervisor.
In an interview last month, Kennedy said his goals include building stronger relationships with Hermon schools, housing developments and businesses.
In the spirit of the community policing concept, the town also has formed a community policing committee comprised of town officials, police, representatives from the school department, businesses and the community at large, Raymond said.
“We want to be able to provide the kind of policing that the community wants at that time,” he said. “It’s constantly changing. The things that you focus on one day may not be the things you focus on three months down the line. We’re forever changing our focus and for us to be able to get it right, we need input from the community.”