For the second time in three years, Gouldsboro residents will vote on whether to disband the town’s police department.
The vote, scheduled as part of Gouldsboro’s annual town meeting next week, comes after its most recent police chief resigned last month following sexual harassment allegations. Voters also will consider at the meeting whether to give selectmen the option of contracting with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department for regular police protection.
The town last fall ordered Chief John Shively to undergo sexual harassment sensitivity training. And both he and the town’s only other full-time officer, Adam Brackett, were taken off duty for several weeks in March and April while the town sought to resolve disputes within the department, the weekly Ellsworth American newspaper has reported.
In June 2019, when Tyler Dunbar was the town’s police chief, voters decided by a 395-169 tally to retain the department after a petition circulated in favor of disbanding it. Two weeks prior to that vote, Dunbar submitted his resignation as chief, citing “a clear lack of political support for the police department from the town government.”
Dana Rice, chairman of the town’s board of selectmen, said Thursday that he is in favor of contracting with the sheriff’s department for regular police patrols. If voters reject allowing the select board to pursue a contract with the sheriff’s department, but they vote in favor of disbanding the town police department, then the sheriff’s department would respond to 911 calls in Gouldsboro but would not provide regular police patrols to the town, he said.
Rice declined to explain why he wants to disband the police department and contract with the sheriff’s office, saying he would share his thoughts with residents at the town meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 9 at the town’s community center on Route 195.
A history of turmoil in the town’s small police department stretches back nearly 20 years. Guy Wycoff was fired as chief twice, in 2002 and again in 2008, and another chief, Paul Gamble, was fired in 2016. Gamble later sued the town and then settled the lawsuit for $67,500, according to the American.
The turmoil and turnover with the department also has involved patrol officers.
Brackett was fired last October after he and the town’s only other patrol officer, Eli Brown, told town officials they had no confidence in Shively, but he was then reinstated after he appealed to the board of selectmen. Brown later resigned this past February, submitting a seven-page letter listing numerous grievances when he did so.
Another former officer, Jeffrey Bishop, has been charged with two counts of receiving stolen property after police found two Glock pistols owned by Gouldsboro Police Department at his house in Cherryfield when they executed a search warrant there in February.
Police have not said if the two recovered pistols were the same two guns that were stolen in a February 2016 burglary at the Gouldsboro town office that also involved the theft of $2,400 in cash, $14,000 in checks and old prescription drugs given to police for disposal.
The burglary occurred after Bishop had resigned from the department, where he was an officer from August 2014 to August 2015.
Bishop, who also worked for several other eastern Maine law enforcement agencies over the course of his 25-year career, was indicted last month on 35 charges including theft, stealing drugs and furnishing drugs to a child.