I have known John Gibbs since 1989 when he began working as a Reserve Police Officer with the Belfast Police Department. Prior to that John had been working in corrections and dispatch at the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office. His experiences there gave John and me a lot to talk about as that was where I had begun my career, as well. I quickly learned of John’s desire to have a career in law enforcement. I say law-enforcement, but John’s life-long dream was to be a Maine Game Warden. In early 1990, John’s dream came true and he was accepted into the warden academy. John graduated later that year but due to state funding issues was one of five wardens in his entire class that were laid off.
In early 1991, John was hired as a full-time officer with the Belfast Police Department. In 1993 John was promoted to the rank of Detective. Due to his tenacity for investigations and ability to work independently John flourished in this role. In 1997 because of his hard work and dedication as Chief of Police I had the honor of promoting John to the rank of Sergeant. John assumed this role with the same dedication and professionalism he had previously displayed as a Detective.
Over the course of the past 29 years I have had the pleasure of watching John grow from the rookie officer whom I once had to remind that we don’t lean on the corner of buildings when conducting foot patrol to one of the most highly respected, dedicated and professional law enforcement officers I have had the pleasure to work with and know.
One of the most notable attributes I learned about John is that he is not afraid to ask questions or challenge the status quo. I also learned very quickly that before coming forward with a question John had research to support his position.
A wise person once said, “The only stupid question is the one that is never asked”. In following this election, it appears that there are those who feel threatened or challenged by many questions John has asked. Some of this may be understandable since there are many who dislike or fear change. It is difficult to move people out of their comfort zone.
One example of this would be John’s question concerning 24-hour patrol coverage. Given the increase in manpower over the past few years I can understand why John might question why the Sheriff’s Department still does not provide around the clock coverage. I understand that the county budget committee and commissioners set forth the funds available for the operation of the department but the authority to determine the extent of the patrol undertaken by his/her deputies by state statutes rests with the Sheriff. If the Sheriff provides patrol coverage that does not exceed the funds provided under their operational budget they would be within their authority to do so. I have heard that one of the concerns expressed surrounds a deputy patrolling alone. For as long as I can remember the Belfast police Department has provided around the clock coverage with short periods during the early morning hours where one officer has patrolled the city without incident. When situations arose that required a back-up officer the communications center simply called out a supervisor who either responded themselves or instructed another officer to be called. This practice has worked successfully in many agencies for years.
A second area of contention has been John’s questions surrounding the Reentry Center. I believe his concerns have been in line with those of a great many people throughout the county. I understand that the center is a 32-bed facility with priority given to residents of Waldo County who are incarcerated and meet the criteria for the program. It is also my understanding that much of the time there are not enough residents from the county who qualify for entry in the program and thus the county seeks out inmates from other counties to keep the beds filled. Concerns regarding this process seem to be reasonable. I also share John’s concern regarding the accuracy of the study conducted regarding the recidivism at the facility. The narrow scope of the study by only counting those who graduated from the program likely skewed the result. As an example, why were those individuals who reoffended while attending the program and returned to their home facility not counted if one was trying to gage the true success of the program.
My greatest area of contention is with those who profess that John does not possess the knowledge or experience to run the Sheriff’s Department. Nothing could be farther from the truth. John’s 21 years of supervisory experience makes him amply qualified to serve the citizens of Waldo County as their High Sheriff.
John would not be the first person elected who did not know the complete ins and outs of the sheriff’s department. The High Sheriff is charged with managing the over-all operations of the department. Like a previous employee has accurately stated the Sheriff is not hands on with every daily aspect of the agency. Just as his predecessor’s John would rely on his individual department heads to manage the day to day operations.
I recall training my successor in budget preparation and submissions as although they had many years of supervisory experience they possessed zero prior experience in that area.
Although John has never managed a jail he does possess prior experience having worked in corrections. There again that is why the Sheriff’s Department has a jail administrator to run the day to day operations and keep John appraised of issues as they arise.
This goes without saying for all divisions of the department; Sergeants to supervise the patrol deputies, Detective Sergeant to supervise the detective division, Secretary to train and oversee the Civil Service arm and finally, Chief Deputy to assist in overseeing it all. In the past newly, elected Sheriffs have been extended the opportunity by their predecessor to shadow them during their last weeks to ease them into the new position. Should John be elected I would hope that opportunity would be extended to him as well.
In closing, it has been said that contrary to what some people may think the Sheriff is an elected position, not one that is merely passed down from a current Sheriff to his successor. On November 6, 2018, for the first time in almost four decades that may very well be the case because when you go to the polls you will have two candidates to choose from.
John possesses the PROFESSIONALISM, LEADERSHIP AND EXPERIENCE to be the High Sheriff of Waldo County and I hope you will join me by giving him your support and most of all your VOTE!
Allen A. Weaver, Sr., is the former Belfast Chief of Police (Retired)