Lincoln County News | Newcastle, ME
Saturday, April 30, 2016 Serving Maine and Lincoln County for over a century. Volume 141 Issue 17

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home : letters : letters to the editor April 30, 2016

3/13/2013 2:00:00 PM
CONSIDER THE MERITS
Editorial

Chad Andrews did not ask to be Damariscotta's police chief. He did not, in fact, expect or plan to be a police chief in Damariscotta or elsewhere.

He was thrust into the position late one night about two years ago on a temporary basis.

As acting chief, Andrews impressed town officials with his on-the-job leadership and was hired for the position. He ran an efficient department and was responsive to the needs of residents and the demands of town officials. Ultimately, the town abandoned its plan for a search process and hired Andrews full time.

We are not blind to Andrews' faults. He does not have the resume of his predecessor, forensics expert and former homicide detective Steve Drake, or the political savvy of another former Damariscotta chief, Sheriff Todd Brackett.

What he does have is 20 years of experience on the roads of Lincoln County, a strong knowledge of the town and its residents and a good head for small-town police work.

In Andrews' first year as chief, the town saved tens of thousands of dollars in labor and overtime costs while the department continued to run smoothly.

The chief was willing to work with the town to address their concerns about the size of the department. He said he would welcome a professional study to determine the appropriate number of officers for the town.

Meanwhile, the board of selectmen harangued the chief about overtime and blocked his efforts to fill a department vacancy. The town manager and the selectmen tried to eliminate the police department altogether, an effort residents shut down at the polls.

Later, the selectmen blamed the chief for turnover at the department when, in part because of their actions, his officers did not know whether they would have a job in 2013.

Now, the town manager and the selectmen would have us believe that, three months after residents sided with the police chief to keep the department - a fight that pitted the chief against the town manager and selectmen in a public, five-month-long war of words - the chief has been demoted due to "strategic planning" issues?

The town received a complaint, placed the chief on leave and investigated the complaint. So far, so fair. The question then becomes, did the town reach the appropriate conclusion, and did this conclusion justify demoting the police chief?

Everything we know about the case says it did not.

The conversations at the police department might have been inappropriate, and if so, the town would be right to insist they stop. However, the activity described by the police chief (the dictionary defines "banter" as "good-natured teasing, ridicule, or joking") seems to us to merit a warning, perhaps a few hours of training - certainly not a demotion and $8000 pay cut.

This leaves us with one important question.

Is this a case about a man who lacks the ability to lead a police department? Or is this a case of town officials taking advantage of an opportunity to remove a challenge to their authority and exact revenge for a political defeat?

The town manager and the chairman of the board say no. We think circumstances indicate otherwise.



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