AUGUSTA – After nearly seven hours of mostly favorable testimony, the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted Wednesday night to put off until morning its recommendation on the nomination of Craig Poulin, a state police major with 26 years of service, to become chief of the state police.

Some opposition to the nomination was voiced by several troopers and their supporters who complained generally that Poulin had been part of a heavy-handed state police command team.

Poulin backers, however, contended he was well equipped by experience to take over the top job on the force.

If confirmed by the Maine Senate, Poulin would succeed Col. Michael Sperry, who announced his retirement last month.

Addressing the lawmakers who would make a recommendation to the Senate, Poulin described a broad spectrum of assignments during the course of his state police career that he suggested had prepared him for leadership and developed his leadership skills.

One duty, investigating allegations of improprieties by other troopers, had been at times unpleasant, Poulin said.

Such an investigative role, he said, “carries with it a degree of controversy, if not stigma,” and, he added, “occasionally hard feelings arise.”

Poulin said law enforcement faces a host of new challenges, including homeland security demands, and must be willing to scrutinize possibilities for consolidation and regionalization.

Pledging to draw on the abilities of others if named to the post of chief, Poulin said: “I know what I don’t know.”

Speaking as one of the opponents of the nomination, Trooper Ronald Brooks urged lawmakers to recognize dissatisfaction in the ranks while considering the nomination.

“The troopers on the road should be heard, and a lot of them are afraid to come forward,” Brooks said.

Poulin, 49, of Gardiner, has been one of two majors in the state police, which he joined in 1978. As head of the state police support services division, Poulin oversees the state crime laboratory, communications, traffic division, special investigations, licensing, records management, training, special services, management information services and the state police fleet.

Poulin previously served as head of the department’s internal affairs division and for a decade was a member of the executive protection unit guarding Govs. Joseph Brennan and John McKernan.

As a young trooper Poulin patrolled Kennebec County. He was promoted to sergeant in 1992, lieutenant in 1997 and major in 2002.

Public Safety Commissioner Michael Cantara, who nominated Poulin, told the committee in prepared testimony that Poulin “is a person who will be candid not only with me, but with you as well.”

The committee, after some testy discussion, split 8-5 in favor of tabling its vote until Thursday.

AP-ES-03-10-04 2053EST

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