ROCKLAND — After seven years as the Knox County Sheriff’s right hand man, Tim Carroll is stepping forward to assume top leadership for county law enforcement. It’s not a slam-dunk, given that the county sheriff seat in Maine is an elected position. But to Carroll, political parties and influence have little to do with it. He is running for sheriff, now that Donna Dennison is retiring from the job, because Knox County is his community at large, and he knows its people, warts and all.
Carroll is fresh from an 11-week FBI academy at Quantico, Virginia, where he received training in the latest law enforcement trends, philosophies and developments, courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
He had been invited to attend the 270th session of the selective academy (Carroll was the only Maine citizen out of 1,600 law enforcement personnel from around the world to attend the most recent session), and was exposed to current thinking in intelligence theory, terrorism and the science of human behavior. From that experience, he understands even more acutely how important the relative safety of Midcoast Maine is in a troubled world.
“Nobody is immune from the horrific activity going on across the nation and world,” he said. “We have to make sure we are on our guard.”
The office of sheriff in Maine has evolved from a legacy extending back to the Middle Ages, back when the sheriff was first known as the shire reeve (shire keeper). In the U.S., many of the sheriffs represented the first publicly elected positions.
In Maine, the county sheriffs remain elected positions, and in addition to overseeing law enforcement through patrol and detective divisions, the sheriffs also run the county jails. In Knox County, there are approximately 60 employees of the sheriff’s office, including four detectives, 11 deputies on patrol throughout the 18 municipalities (including four islands – and technically even Isle au Haut, on the far eastern side of Penobscot Bay near Stonington), two patrol supervisors, a lieutenant, 38 jail administrators, Carroll, and Dennison.
In 2006, Sheriff Donna Dennison ran for office on the democratic ticket and won her first four-year term. That was repeated again in 2010, and 2014. Now, she is retiring.
“Full disclosure,” said Carroll, sitting at Rock City Cafe, in Rockland, on a Sunday morning in mid-January. He had just announced his candidacy and was ready to meet the press. He had been told that he’d have his photo taken, and to get spruced up. Carroll, who lives in Owls Head, chose not to wear his uniform, deliberately separating politics from duty.
“I was Republican for years,” said Carroll, who was born in Camden, and began his career in Rockland at age 21 as a patrol officer. “When it comes to this position and law enforcement, I don’t think there should be any partisanship. That has nothing to do with it. I wholeheartedly agree and prescribe to the fact that the sheriff is an elected position. I do believe in that. But as far as the partisanship, we can’t do that.”
Maine law goes like this: The county sheriff’s chief deputy is appointed by the sheriff. If something should happen to the sheriff, by state law, the governor appoints a successor to the position. The only stipulation is that the governor has to appoint someone from the same party.
So, seven years ago, when Dennison decided Carroll was to be her chief deputy, he switched parties.
And now, he remains a Democrat as a sheriff candidate. He registered January 29 with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices and appointed Tammy Kolmosky, of Rockport, as his treasurer.
To date, no other candidate has stepped forward to run against Carroll. Registration to appear on the June ballot is March 15, and there is time yet for competition, but no other names are burbling to the surface for the position.
In Knox County, Carroll has been a visible representative of the sheriff’s office. He has stood quietly at many tragedies, crashes and crime scenes, answering reporters’ questions, graciously but firmly, and always respectful, even protective, of the victims. At age 47, he has the composure of someone who has been in office for many years.
He has been named a hometown hero by a radio station and honored by the Maine Sheriff’s Association.
The latter award was presented to Carroll, “in recognition of exemplary management skills and many other superior contributions to the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and to the law enforcement profession.”
Carroll was recognized for his professional efforts within the agency, as well as chairman of the association’s Chief Deputy Committee, to assist in promoting and supporting the association and his efforts as a volunteer in the community.
Carroll is the past president of Maine Lobster Festival, and, for 20 years he was a youth coach of various sports, promoting hard work, dedication, and good sportsmanship, the award noted.
In his campaign statement (see attached PDF), Carroll said: “My decision to campaign for Knox County Sheriff comes from a strong desire to serve people. I look forward to enhancing the level of professionalism and dedication of law enforcement and corrections that serve all of the residents of Knox County. If I am chosen as your Sheriff, my commitment to serve will translate into the mission I will set for the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. We need a mission that puts citizens first and makes our county safer.
“Good law enforcement requires exceptional service with a common sense approach. Enforcing law has never been black and white. I have tried to be fair with every encounter I have handled over 24 years of law enforcement service. Every interaction is an opportunity to enhance the quality of life for a citizen. Leadership that fosters a spirit of knowing when to be firm and when to be compassionate would be one of my priorities as sheriff.”
What’s important to Knox County?
Tim Carroll wants to step up communications and educational interactions with the public. He learned from experience, and the National Academy, that “getting out more and showing the public how to be safe” is essential.
For instance, Carroll said that Deputy Arthur Smith recently visited a local church at the invitation of the pastor. Following the November deaths at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, at the hands of a gunman, the local Midcoast church wanted to know how to better protect its congregation. Even the most simple pointers can be paramount, said Carroll.
He also cites the opioid crisis as a major Knox County issue. County jails have filled with inmates who suffer from mental health disorders and/or have addiction problems. Carroll wants to expand and enhance programs for those inmates, and learn from other institutions, including the state prison in Warren, where current Warden Randall Liberty is also initiating different rehabilitative models. And Liberty was a former sheriff at Kennebec County, so he is familiar with Carroll’s institutional structure.
“We work well with him and his people,” said Carroll. “So do the other counties.”
“Good correction opportunities require that programs are in place to address the needs of the residents housed in the Knox County Jail,” he said. “Over 80 percent of the population currently housed there is due to some form of addiction. I want to partner with local organizations and care providers to help those curb their addiction to reduce the recidivism rate that would cost less to the taxpayers.”
That partnering also extends to the local municipal police departments of Camden, Rockland, Rockport, Thomaston, and across county lines to Waldoboro PD, as well as with local fire departments and emergency medical services. It is a large public safety web, and Knox County SO sits in the middle of it all.
But the drug pipeline is also constant menace in the state, said Carroll.
Last year, when a couple had been arrested at the Knox County Airport for transporting heroin from Pennsylvania, they told investigators that they been told to head to Maine to triple their profits.
It’s supply and demand, and Maine remains a remote yet viable market.
“That’s a bad message for the state of Maine,” Carroll said. “If the dealers are saying in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that you go to Maine to make your money, we don’t need that.”
Heroin is cheap, and now it is laced with killer fentanyl. Knox County deputies, as well as local police, responded to an increased number of overdose victims over the last five years, and the availability of drugs pushed to teens and children alarms Carroll even more.
“There’s more opportunity for more harmful drugs than when I was in school,” he said. “Don’t ever take an open drink. If it’s a soda or beer, snap the cap yourself. It’s getting that awareness out to people to how careful they have to be.”
Addiction, said Carroll, crosses the entire population, from the rich to the poor.
“It is so widespread,” he said. “There is no one faction of people affected. It’s everybody.”
He also cited texting while driving, and distracted driving, as a major factor attributed to the increase in automobile crashes – “it’s getting as bad as OUI,” said Carroll.
Domestic abuse remains prevalent in Knox County, and, again, he stressed, the reinforcement of public safety and public awareness in the community is about communication and education.
He wants citizens to speak up.
“If you see something, say something,” he said. “Call us and let us find out that it is nothing. Because you never know. That noise you hear down the road in the middle of the night. If you call, we are looking it at that night versus the next day, or two days later. Don’t wait. Call us and let us find out it was nothing.”
Carroll said the sheriff’s office will be conducting another of its citizens’ police academies for the general public.
“We don’t do a good enough job of promoting what we do,” he said. “And that’s on the law enforcement side, as well as the jail side.”
“The general public thinks you go to jail, get locked up, and we feed you,” he said. “But there are programs. We have had people get their GEDs in jail. We have programs in place and I think we need to look at enhancing some of them considering the problems we face. Typically, it used to be alcohol addiction, maybe marijuana or cocaine. But the drug addiction problem is what we need to try to address more in the jail. And we need the public’s help with more enhanced programs.”
Carroll began in law enforcement in 1991, and worked in a variety of offices, including the Bar Harbor Police Department and the Maine Marine Patrol. He graduated from UMaine with a degree in legal technology, and holds a captain’s license. In 1998, he was honored for helping to save three people from an overturned vessel in Penobscot Bay.
He has been president of the board of directors that oversees the Lobster Festival, and he has raised his children, along with his wife, Heidi, in the Midcoast. Carroll is not reticent about his affection for the area.
“I believe Knox County is the greatest place on earth to live and raise a family and I want to ensure that the people of Knox County feel safe doing so,” he said.
Reach Editorial Director Lynda Clancy at email@example.com; 207-706-6657