Media Archive

Letter to the Editor

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 165, No. 2, January 08, 2003

To the editor:

The citizens of the Town of Brownville are again having to deal with what was thought to be a resolved issue involving the police department.

The story: at the March 2002 town meeting a 2-man police department was voted in as had been done over the last several years. Soon thereafter an officer resigned and went to work for another department. A new, non-Maine State Police Academy trained officer was hired as a replacement. Shortly thereafter the Police Chief resigned, forcing the town to scramble to seek proper and legal coverage.

As required by law, a municipality must have an academy-trained officer; therefore the town entered into what was then supposedly a temporary agreement with a neighboring town for a part-time chief and other officers to provide coverage.

On Oct. 15, 2002, the town held an informational meeting for the public to discuss matters related to this issue. Several options were discussed, such as sharing police responsibilities with the neighboring town, hiring either the Piscataquis Sheriff's Dept., or the State Police for coverage. All options were discussed and debated, with the Brownville town manager making a major presentation of the options.

At that meeting, the chairman of the Board of Selectmen stated that the "Board" would comply with the wishes of the community. This meeting resulted in an overwhelming vote in favor of maintaining the "status quo" whereby the town would maintain and operate,as it has in the past,a 2-man department,independent of outside coverage,with the exception of mutual aid assisstance between departments. The vote by the board of selectmen at this meeting was a surprising 3-2 in favor of the above. There were upwards of 200 people at that meeting. Indeed a surprise, considering that less than half that many people attended the annual town meeting. It would seem that the volume of people attending might suggest that this issue was at the very least a "hot button" issue with the citizens, and that full agreement by the board of selectmen might have been expected. It was at the very least a fine showing of that unique application of true democracy in action. The majority rules. Well, apparently not in this case.

Applications for a new Police Chief went out. Shortly thereafter, it was reported in the news that no qualified applicants were found, and the town would maintain its current use of the part-time chief and other officers from the neighboring community.

During the application and interview process, one area police officer with several years experience (including having worked as a part-time officer for Brownville) applied. His qualifications: a college degree, a 3-year law degree, and the Maine State Police Academy. This officer (with whom I have spoken to on three occasions regarding this matter) received a letter and was rejected out of hand without being considered even for an interview.

After the intercession of one of the selectmen, this officier was granted an interview on a given Wednesday. On Friday of that week he received a telephone call from the town manager of Brownville, thanking him for his interest, and informing him that the "Town" had decided that they would not hire at this time and would be maintaining the situation with the neighboring town until the time of town meeting in the spring. The following week, this officer then read in the paper that "no qualified applicants had been received." This and he isn't upset ? Maybe one might wonder just what a qualified applicants credentials look like !

So the town of Brownville, now nearly three months since the October meeting, is still operating against the majority wishes of those assembled at that meeting.

Now, as always this time of year, it is budget time again for our community. On Thursday, Jan. 2 a budget meeting was held. Guess what!? As I understood it, as of now, there are no provisions for a 2-man, Brownville only, police department to exist. It is not in the budget ! However, the current affiliation with the neighboring community is funded. How do you like that?

Recently a Brownville selectman was quoted in a local weekly paper, as saying he has heard no complaints about the current situation. I have also received information that this same selectman, stated at Thursday's budget meeting, that the meeting held in October on this issue, was not binding, and that only special interests were involved in the vote. That selectman needs to travel with me on my morning coffee rounds to hear what everybody I talk to has to say. There are many complaints about the selectmen and town manager not following the wishes of the community. I mean lots of comments.

So I say to you, citizens of Brownville,if ti is the community's desire to have it's own police department, if you believe that it is a requirement for the elected officials of the community to follow the taxpayers' wishes in this matter, you had better get personally ,and make your wishes known.

This perhaps could best done in writing, as apparently some officials do not believe, or are not listening, to what is being said. Also,another budget meeting is being held next Thursday, and you are allowed to attend. After all it is a public meeting, and it is your community. It is also understood that on or about January 23, there will be a regularly scheduled selectman's meeting. You again can attend and voice your opinion.At the very least the issue should be forced to be budgeted for a 2-man department, so that once and for all time the citizens can have a say in their choice of to have an independent police department or not.

It appears to some that the wishes of the community are not being met, that valuable time is being wasted on this issue that you as citizens may have believed to have been resolved. The issue is not resolved, so if you are interested, please get involved. It is, after all, your community.

John A. Owens Brownville

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.