Midcoast state legislative candidates discuss law enforcement reform

Sat, 10/10/2020 - 11:30am

    The nation continues to grapple with the debate of reducing law enforcement budgets and appropriating those funds elsewhere in communities, and the discussion of how to improve the relationship between law enforcement and their communities. 

    Penobscot Bay Pilot has posed questions to each candidate running for Maine State Legislature, providing the opportunity for the public to better understand their position on issues important to the state. Candidates responding with their individual written answers will have their responses stored in the Pilot’s 2020 Election Resource Guide.

    Among the 14 questions posed to each candidate was a question asking each candidate to outline their position on law enforcement reform in the State of Maine?

    Below are the responses to this question from each candidate that responded to an inquiry from PenBayPilot.com. To read more responses from each candidate about their thoughts on important issues, click on their name. 

    Midcoast legislative districts with races in November include House Districts 91 through 99, as well as District 131, and Senate Districts 11 through 13. The incumbents in House Districts 92 and 94 are not being challenged. 

    The following candidates did not respond to numerous invitations to participate in the Q&A series: Lowell Wallace (House District 91), Ann Matlack (House District 92), William Elliott (House District 97), Scott Cuddy (House District 98), Jessica Connor (House District 98), MaryAnne Kinney (House District 99), April Turner (House District 99), Sherman Hutchins (House District 131), and Dana Dow (Senate District 13). 


    Jeffrey Evangelos 
    Candidate for House District 91

    I've been one of the leaders in sponsoring and co-sponsoring legislation to reform law enforcement practices. My bill to implement an independent review of law enforcement officer use of force passed the Legislature and was signed into law. I also sponsored a bill to reform our post-conviction review system to assure we keep no innocent people in prison.

    We also need to acknowledge that no one should be suffering the consequences of any marijuana convictions now that the State of Maine has gone into the business of collecting tax revenues on the sale of this product. It's the height of hypocrisy.


    Valli Geiger
    Candidate for House District 93

    I find both “Support the Blue” and “Defund the Police” to be polarizing phrases that add nothing to the conversation. That there is systematic racism is obvious to all who are willing to see. That the police have become increasingly militarized over the last several decades using increasingly aggressive tactics is also true.

    Like many organizations before them, too many police departments have failed to hold their their officers accountable and too many police unions are willing to go to the mat to support bad actors. “Culture eats change for breakfast” is a term we used in health care reform.

    We are seeing it in the failure of police reforms to bring needed change. Here in the Midcoast, Maine we are in a very good position. I have nothing but admiration for Chief Young and Sheriff Carroll. Here in the Midcoast to have two law enforcement leaders with integrity. Rockland has adopted policies that include “Duty to intervene” when an officer sees a colleague engaging in excessive use of force, no use of chokeholds and a commitment to CIT training for all officers. Knox County under Sheriff Carroll chooses not to do “No knock raids”.

    But I don’t want Maine people to be dependent on leaders having integrity, I want strong guardrails in place to hold departments to a standard that focuses on community policing, de-escalation skills, CIT training (Crisis Intervention Team) so that we can feel confident we have departments who live the motto “To serve and protect.”


    Michael Mullins
    Candidate for House District 93

    I support our law enforcement. I organized a family fun day for Knox County Police, Sheriff's department, Corrections, Parole, Harbor Patrol, and Fish and Game wardens, because I did not like to see them feel targeted or censured for something as simple as their occupation, and because they are members of our community. I believe one of the most important ways to support law enforcement is to invest in their training, such as de-escalation, intervention, and the implementation of reforms that align our police with with the general population.

    I am opposed to civil asset forfeiture laws the deprive people of property without due process. This is a civil rights issue. It is one that sets the state's financial interest against that of the citizen, and raises constitutional concerns. I am firmly against the militarization of police, including the use of military equipment in America's neighborhoods and the adoption of tactical great and methods. I am a proponent of what I call the Andy Griffith model of policing, in which police and law enforcement are seen as members of the community there to help.


    Victoria Doudera
    Candidate for House District 94

    My district is fortunate to have law enforcement professionals who believe in community policing and who treat all citizens with respect. Unfortunately that isn’t the case everywhere, and like many Americans, I am shocked and saddened to have witnessed recent law enforcement encounters that blatantly belied our values and ideals of justice.

    Here in Maine, we need to make sure all departments are getting the training they need to keep situations from escalating, and provide officers when possible with professionals in the mental health and social services fields to help in all the myriad situations they are expected to handle. I do not believe in defunding the police or any of our first responders, as they do a critically important job in our communities, but I do think we need to augment their work with professionals who can potentially help prevent negative encounters.


    William Pluecker
    Candidate for House District 95

    We are so lucky to have the dedicated law enforcement officers that we have in our community. We also need to recognize that they are working within a very difficult system that often places them at odds with the people in our community who are more likely to come into contact with them. The mentally ill and the poor are much more likely to have regular interactions with our criminal justice system than others. For us taxpayers, we have to question what is the work we want our police officers doing. Wouldn't it be better to have a mental health system that gets folks in crisis off the streets and properly cared for? If people are breaking laws because of their addiction, we need to get them into treatment so they can stop the cycle of going to jail repeatedly. As taxpayers we are going to pay for them one way or another, whether it is paying for a jail cell or treatment, it would be cheaper in the long term to get them healthy. For those coming from families that have faced issues of poverty for generations, shouldn't we have programs available to help them get education and work so that they can lift themselves out of those long term cycles? This is not the work our criminal justice system should be doing.

    Race is a difficult conversation to have in a state that competes for being the whitest state in the country. We try to avoid the conversation of race as an issue people have in other places, not here, but race is something that we all live with. In my community in Warren, there was a community within our community for 150 years that named itself Peterborough though it was often known by other more derogatory names. That community of Black and Indiginous people flourished for over a century before dissolving due to community pressure and economic issues. The Peterborough cemetery, full of flags by the veterans' graves, is still here to mark its historical significance. There is no simple answer why there are so few people of color in our communities, and we should respond to invitations to talk about race with compassion and courage.


    Molly Luce
    Candidate for House District 95

    I think our police do a great job. I would like to thank them all for serving their communities.


    Stanley Paige Zeigler
    Candidate for House District 96

    Our district has to use county and state police because we don't have local police force. Because of that, there are sometimes long waits for assistance. We can't afford to have less of a police presence. One of the reasons that wait times may be longer is that we ask the police to do more than their motto which is to “Protect and Serve” We expect them to perform functions outside of their scope. They shouldn't be dealing with mental health issues. If we fully fund state agencies, the support will be there to reduce their workload. We had a bill in the legislature for hub mental health services that would be available 24/7 to assist the police. That should be funded. We shouldn't be asking them to do the business of fining people to pay for municipal government. In the last 40 years we have increased incarceration for nonviolent crimes. They could be handled outside of prison with a restorative justice program.

    We need to keep funding the police so that our highways and homes are safe. That said, there are other issues. The job of the police is hard, the hours are long and we need to show those who respect us, the respect that they deserve. Community policing where all people feel as if they are respected regardless of class or color is a must. There will always be tensions in society, but we have to keep on striving for improvement.


    Katrina Smith
    Candidate for House District 96

    We can always do better. That being said I would never defund the police or replace them with social workers. Training and community involvement are key to keeping our law enforcement respected and an integral part of the safety of our towns.


    Janice Dodge
    Candidate for House District 97

    I support social justice and I am shocked and saddened to have witnessed recent law enforcement encounters. Our Waldo County Sheriff’s Department adopted the concept of community policing years ago. I believe our deputies and local police heeded their training on deescalating volatile situations and fair and respectful treatment of all citizens. Officers of the law, like educators, are currently expected to do more than used to fall under “serve and protect.” They deal with the mentally ill, the homeless and those under the influence of alcohol or drugs and assist in the decision whether behavior is best addressed with time in a treatment facility or a jail cell while awaiting setting of bail and/or appropriate medical and psychological assessments.

    I support full funding of law enforcement and first responders. I believe if we fund mental health services and increase treatment capacity this will preempt, minimize or reduce negative contact with law enforcement.


    Veronica Garvey Magnan
    Candidate for House District 131

    As the mother of a former Marine who is a policeman, I have no reason to support the “defund” the police movement if it is aimed at reducing the number of local and state police in Maine.

    I would like to see teams of psychiatric social workers, nurses and EMT’s in place in all counties of Maine able to respond in support of police action concerning domestic violence, mental illness breakdowns, hostage situations and other police issues involving deviant social and mental behaviors. When they also involve the use of guns by the assailants, we definitely need armed police who will have a sense of and understanding of what needs to be done to disarm the problem, or to act in a non-lethal way to solve the situation.


    Glenn ‘Chip’ Curry
    Candidate for Senate District 11

    When our state and communities do not adequately respond to social problems such as homelessness, mental health access, substance abuse, and poverty it is often our law enforcement agencies, jails, and emergency rooms that are left to respond. These institutions are designed for another task. I believe we need to reinvest in prevention strategies and tackle these societal problems head on.

    We also need to provide strong back-up to our officers so that when they are called to a scene where a person is in crisis, they can quickly pull in an appropriate mental health/substance abuse counselor for support. I was excited to learn that the Waldo County Sheriff's Office has recently initiated such a program through grant funding and by working closely with community partners.


    Duncan Milne
    Candidate for Senate District 11

    Many times, we come across events that shake the very foundations of what we believe in and force us to look inward and review and update our techniques and procedures. Law enforcement in Maine is a center of gravity in every community that we rely on to provide us with a sense of well-being and confidence.

    I’m confident every law enforcement organization in the state has conducted this inward look with an eye towards evolving their practices. Our first responders should be the subject of increased funding and support, not subject the those who wish to pander to the mob mentality of hitch their wagon to the irresponsible ‘defunding’ rhetoric of this most important public function.


    David Miramant
    Candidate for Senate District 12

    Law enforcement everywhere has moved more toward the military model of force and punishment over the years. We need to start at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy with a review of all training and make sure new and effective methods are taught and practiced. We need to have effective reviews of all police shootings and excessive force and hold rogue officers responsible for their actions. We are lucky to have several chiefs in Knox County who believe this is necessary for their departments, and we must make sure that when they have job openings, there are candidates who understand community policing. There also needs to be proper funding of mental health and social worker positions so that folks who need a non-law enforcement response can get that as well.


    Gordon Page
    Candidate for Senate District 12

    There is not a state program today that wouldn’t benefit from a solid review. That said, I have been pleased with my discussions with the 12th Senate District municipal and county law enforcement leadership. I have personally met with the three police chiefs (Rockland and Thomaston, as well as the chief who manages both Rockport and Camden), and the sheriff, and I am satisfied that they are doing all the right things to ensure the safety of our citizens.


    Chloe Maxmin
    Candidate for Senate District 13

    Much of the conversation around law enforcement recently has come out of the Black Lives Matter protests. There is a deep history of racism in this country, a history that is still with us today. Black Lives Matter does not value certain lives over others. It calls on us to hear the pain and experience of the Black community in America today.

    Our law enforcement in District 13 does more than enforce the law. They are part of how we support each other, take care of our seniors, understand the complex needs of our community. There are conversions to be had around law enforcement, just like there are conversations to be had around any issue or agency. Todd Brackett, the Lincoln County Sheriff, endorses our campaign because we understand these complexities. I support our local law enforcement as we navigate these challenging times.