State’s top cop to step aside

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AUGUSTA – Col. Craig Poulin, chief of Maine State Police, is stepping down after less than two years as the head of the state’s largest police force, it was confirmed Tuesday night.

The 51-year-old Gardiner man announced Tuesday morning that he would leave the position of chief he held since 2004.

In an e-mail from Poulin to all others on the Maine State Police mailing list, Poulin said he will likely retire the first of March. However, according to the memo, he plans to stay involved.

“I am pursuing new opportunities and the most exciting of those will be serving under contract as Executive Director for the Maine State Troopers Association and the Maine State Law Enforcement Association. Details are being finalized.”

Maine Department of Public Safety Spokesman Stephen McCausland would only confirm that Poulin was stepping down as chief. He said further details about the change in leadership would be made available in coming days.

Poulin joined the state police force as a trooper in 1978 and later became one of two majors in the department. In early 2004, he was nominated to serve as chief of the department in what would become a controversial move.

While the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee ultimately voted 11-2 in favor of Poulin, it was only after hearing testimony that was not always flattering. Fourteen people spoke on behalf of Poulin. Seven spoke against him.

Two retired state troopers on the committee voted against Poulin. One trooper accused him of leading “not through leadership and earned respect, but through fear and intimidation.”

Another trooper told lawmakers that an informal poll of state police union members showed that 83 percent opposed Poulin as chief. One major complaint, according to testimony, was that Poulin discriminated against officers who were members of the National Guard and Army Reserve because of the time and money their military service cost the department.

At the same time, others praised Poulin and cited complaints against him as vendettas from a small group of discontented officers, some of whom had been the target of internal investigations.

At one time before he became chief, Poulin served as head of the department’s internal affairs division. Lee Umphrey, spokesman for Gov. John Baldacci, called Poulin “tough but fair.”

Supporters in 2004 cited Poulin’s versatility and experience. During his career with state police, he has worked in homeland security, gambling and communications. Before he was named chief, he oversaw the crime laboratory, communications, traffic division, special investigations, licensing, and records management.

Several officers who spoke out against Poulin before the Criminal Justice Committee have since retired and could not be reached for comment. Active troopers on the force declined to speak about the change in leadership Tuesday night, saying they were not comfortable doing so before the announcement was made official.

Poulin could not be reached by phone Tuesday night. In his e-mail to the department, he wrote: “To say that it has been (an) honor serving as a Trooper and working for and with each of you is by far and away and understatement. I will miss you and sincerely thank you for all of you(r) support.”

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