DIXFIELD — The Police Department has been awarded a federal grant to hire a full-time officer for three years to focus on domestic violence cases.
The $189,617 comes from the federal office of Community Oriented Policing Services. The department is one of six in Maine to share in $1.3 million.
"I am delighted that (police) Chief Pickett put the proposal for the grant before the selectmen," Town Manager Eugene Skibitsky said. "With a unanimous vote from the board we knew he had the full support of the community."
At the end of the three years, the town would be responsible for paying for the position.
"The town manager and selectmen have worked hard with the budget to ensure we can continue this position once the grant money has been used," Pickett said.
The grant program provides money directly to law enforcement agencies to hire new and previous career law enforcement officers, and to increase community policing capacity and crime prevention efforts.
Dixfield has just over 2,500 residents and employs four full-time officers providing 24-hour coverage, seven days a week.
"We operate with the least amount of officers you can to provide that type of round-the-clock service," Pickett said.
Applicants had to list a specific public safety issue that would be addressed if a new officer was hired and Pickett listed domestic violence.
"We are hoping to have the time and resources with this new position to work on follow-up investigations that would normally not be handled," he said. "This will give us the time to talk with a victim of domestic violence after an arrest is made and possibly learn more than we would have."
The new position will allow Pickett time to work as a criminal investigator or detective, following up on evidence and leads in serious crimes.
Pickett also wants to have a stronger presence in both the middle and high schools in Dixfield. Encouraging a good relationship with law enforcement early on and talking to kids about a healthy lifestyle that is violence free were mentioned.
Pickett said the department received letters of support, which were added to the grant application, from U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and U.S. Congressman Michael Michaud, D-Maine.
Snowe sent a letter Thursday afternoon about the grant and addressed concerns over the epidemic of bath salts in the state.
"This funding will help restore these vital positions, upon which our neighborhoods and communities heavily rely, and is particularly welcome at a time when our state struggles to combat the spread and usage of mephedrone and MDPV (bath salts)," she wrote.
Snowe is a co-sponser of legislation authored by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, which would add MDPV and mephedrone to the list of controlled substances making their possession and sale illegal in the United States.