PARIS — Oxford County commissioners met Tuesday morning with police chiefs from three municipalities and the Oxford County sheriff for a general discussion on law enforcement issues.
Rumford Police Chief Stacy Carter said he feels there is “not nearly enough accountability to the suspects that are perpetrating crimes” in the River Valley.
“There’s not a strong message that their actions won’t be tolerated,” Carter said. “I see in the newspaper all of the dismissals that occur. We need more accountability. There are too many repeat offenders because they’re only getting a slap on the hand.”
County Administrator Scott Cole asked Carter why he thought suspects were receiving lax sentences.
“I don’t think it’s the county,” Carter replied. “I think the system is broken. I’m not sure if it’s that there’s not enough jail space or court time or a lack of judge availability. I just think people are being released with a slap on the wrist, and they become repeat offenders.”
Cole said anyone arguing that there is not enough jail space for suspects is “making an untrue statement.”
Oxford Police Chief Jon Tibbetts said, “We really need to put pressure on state legislatures to stiffen that up.”
“I believe in having treatment for drug addicts, but I think one of the ways to force them into treatment is to have stiffer penalties,” Tibbetts said. “They need to see the stiff penalties that are waiting if they don’t get treatment.”
Sheriff Wayne Gallant said he and the Maine Sheriffs Association have begun inviting local legislators to association meetings every month to give them a glimpse at the discussion that goes into jailing and sentencing prisoners, as well as dealing with probation issues.
“Every month, the MSA meeting moves to a different county, and we’re inviting local legislators from each county to visit so we can educate them a bit more on the needs of law enforcement in the state of Maine,” Gallant said.
Carter said that many times cases aren’t even heard due to “not enough court time or not enough judges to hear them, so they’re making deals or adjustments with the crime through deferred dispositions or other things of that nature.”
A deferred disposition allows a defendant to have a charge dismissed after a certain period of time, if he or she meets certain requirements.
At the start of the meeting, Commissioner David Duguay of Byron told Gallant, Carter, Tibbetts and Mexico Police Chief Roy Hodsdon, “You are our customers and we want to know how we’re serving your towns specifically, in regards to the jail, the Sheriff’s Office, the Oxford County Regional Communications Center and how we are in terms of responsiveness.”
Tibbetts said he appreciates everything the Sheriff’s Office and dispatch does for the municipalities, but believes that there are “not enough people in the dispatch center for the number of calls coming in.”
“Three people in a room is not enough,” he said.
Hodsdon said he appreciates the county dispatch and is “probably a little more patient than my officers are, because I’ve seen how it’s grown over the years.”
“My concerns are when my officers aren’t getting status checks because they’re busy,” Hodsdon said. “It’s not like they’re just ignoring us, but it’s a little concerning. They do the best they can.”
In other business, commissioners presented Spirit of America awards to Oxford County residents and a Mexico group.
According to its website, the Spirit of America Foundation is a nonprofit public charity based in Augusta that honors volunteerism in Maine.
Those receiving an award included Gary “Butch” Fuller of Greenwood, Priscilla Howard of Hiram, Barbara Chow of Dixfield, Gary Dolloff of Rumford, Arlene Greenleaf of Bethel, Maria Holloway of Hanover, the Mexico Police Explorers, Robert Worthley of Roxbury, Dana Chandler of Paris and George and Thelma Hooper of Woodstock.
Oxford County Commissioner David Duguay shakes the hand of Hanover resident Maria Holloway after presenting her with a Spirit of America award Tuesday afternoon during the commissioner’s meeting at the Oxford County Superior Court building. Holloway was one of ten people to be given a Spirit of America award, which recognizes volunteerism in Maine.