Livermore Falls selectman would like to see more community policing

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LIVERMORE FALLS — A selectman would like to see police officers out in the community — in a relaxed way — so police get more acquainted with residents, especially children.

A proposal to put in a new playground at the Recreation Field was put on hold last month because of vandalism to an existing play structure. It had been vandalized previously along with picnic tables down at the field. Officials want to put security measures in place prior to adding more equipment.

“We need to figure out what to do with the children,” Selectman Sarah Flagg said Tuesday during a Board of Selectmen meeting.

There is not much in town for them to do, she said.

Police officers should be out there, maybe in more relaxed uniforms,  she said.

“I would like the Police Department along with the select board to think of out of the box ideas that will help the people of the community who are in crisis without the use of violence.  I understand (police) need to be protected but we need to look at why we have the issues we do,” Flagg said Thursday.

She believes they need to fix the issues before they get to the point that they escalate.

“We used to have a community police program,” Town Manager Stephen Gould said, who is also a part-time police officer for the town, during Tuesday’s meeting.

He has seen officers get out of a cruiser and mix with the kids and throw a ball with them. 

Gould said he would like to see the day shift officers walk into the schools to talk to children, so they could get to know police better. Maybe even have lunch with them, he said.

Any meeting with children in a school setting would have to be done in another town.

Livermore Falls closed its elementary, middle and high schools and those students go to Jay, while younger children also attend schools in Jay and Livermore.

When the schools were in town, police did get involved with the kids in school and participated in programs including teaching children about resisting drug abuse and sitting down to lunch with them.

Police also held Coffee with a Cop at different locations earlier this year to meet with residents.

Another issue is limited staffing and budget constraints. 

Part of the problem, Gould said, is there is a faction of the community that only understands enforcement.

Back in the 1970s, children respected police and knew the officers well, he said.

Selectman Rodney Heikkinen said there used to be a place for teenagers to gather. 

“They respected the uniform,” he said.

There also used to be a roller skating rink and a movie theater at one time.

Public Works foreman and resident Bill Nichols pointed out the video games available are all about shooting and killing.

Gould agreed more could be done. 

He also knows where police are coming from, he said, and the need for protection when out on the street serving a warrant or dealing with criminal matters. 

Gould told Flagg if she had any ideas or solutions, he would be glad to hear them.

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