LEWISTON — Nobody will come right out and say that Police Chief Michael Bussiere single-handedly cleaned up the image of Lewiston.

But you can tell that they kind of want to.

Bussiere, chief of the Lewiston Police Department for seven years, announced Wednesday that he will retire in order to take a command-level position in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.

Reaction to the news throughout the law enforcement community was mixed: His colleagues say they are glad Bussiere is taking such a significant career leap forward.

But what about the city he will leave behind?

“Personally, I’m very happy for Mike,” said U.S. Attorney Thomas Delahanty II. “I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for professional advancement. But speaking as a U.S. attorney and as a native and longtime resident of Lewiston, I think the city is losing an exceptionally well-qualified public servant.”

Delahanty added, “He has done remarkable things for the city. It’s going to be a loss for Lewiston and the state.”

City Administrator Ed Barrett said he was sorry Bussiere is leaving.

“During his tenure, he has shown a deep and abiding commitment to Lewiston — his community and his home,” Barrett said. “He will leave us with a Police Department that aggressively addresses crime and public safety but that does so by building strong and durable relationships with all elements of our community.”

According to city figures, crime has been reduced by over 40 percent in Lewiston since Bussiere took over leadership of the department. City leaders credit, in part, Bussiere’s “hot spot policing” strategies, introduced in 2012, for changing the crime rate and the image of the city.

“It’s changed the attitudes of a lot of the people in the city,” Delahanty said. “I think it’s changed the mind-set of the law enforcement in the community, too.”

For years, Bussiere has been loudly deriding people who continue to use terms like “The Dirty Lew” to describe the city. Look at the steadily dropping crime rates, he implored. Make the comparisons to other Maine cities.

For some, Bussiere’s steadfast defense of the city’s reputation spawned a new way of thinking — one in which residents began taking pride in their community rather than joining the chorus of negativity.

“Mike has done a terrific job for this community,” said Mayor Robert Macdonald, himself a Lewiston police veteran. “He has provided sound and thoughtful leadership to the department and has never shrunk from addressing problems and standing up for his hometown. He has instilled a new level of pride, not only in the department, but in the city as a whole.”

Bussiere, who began his police career as a patrolman in Lewiston 26 years ago, also established the Community Resource Team, said to have vastly improved relations between police and citizens.

The hot spot initiative, meanwhile, has been so successful that the LPD was recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice and received a grant for $150,000 to expand the program, which has become a model for other police departments across the state.

“Hot Spots is going to be his legacy,” said Matt Cashman, Maine Drug Enforcement Agency supervisor. “He’s done such a great job working with so many agencies. He brought them all together and got them to work in concert.”

During Operation Hot Spots, Lewiston police are typically joined by officers from a slew of other agencies, including drug enforcement to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives.

His ability to work with other police agencies has been noted. But for some, Bussiere’s open-door policy in general may be responsible for many of his successes. 

“He’s been a very approachable chief,” Cashman said. “He’ll listen to anything anybody has to say, whether it’s a sworn officer or a civilian. And that’s not just during his tenure as chief. He’s been that way throughout his career.”

Bussiere said he delayed his announcement on the move to Texas until negotiations for a police union contract were finalized. Now that the contract has been set, his retirement from the Lewiston force is scheduled for July 17, after which he’ll head for Dallas.

Bussiere said he felt it was time to look for new challenges in his career. When he heard about the position in Dallas-Fort Worth, he applied for it, ultimately beating out candidates from across the country for the position.

“He’s going to be facing a lot of new and I think unusual challenges for him,” Delahanty said. “It’s not like he’s moving to another area in New England. He’s going to be going into a completely different environment. And I’m also positive that he’s very capable of handling it.”

For his part, Bussiere remained humble Wednesday. He credited the people around him for his successes over the past seven years and predicted that the city will be just fine without him.

“This agency isn’t about one person,” the chief said. “We’ve got a great group of people here and they’ll be up for the challenge going forward.”

Mixed feelings? Bussiere has those, too.

“While I soon will be moving away from Lewiston, the city that I was born and raised in, a part of me will always remain behind and I will forever be a cheerleader for this great city,” he said.

“I leave knowing that the men and women of the LPD are some of the best law enforcement professionals in the state of Maine, and that they will continue to serve the city with honor, integrity and pride.”

It was not disclosed who will replaced Bussiere at the Lewiston department, although it’s generally believed that Deputy Chief Brian O’Malley will fill in, at least on an interim basis, while the search for a new chief gets underway.

In Auburn, Police Chief Phil Crowell said of Bussiere: “Over the years, we have relied on each other, and that is what is at the heart of being twin cities. Mike has developed his staff well. Focusing on the community has been his priority since taking the position, and his team will continue carrying that torch. Lewiston will be losing a great leader.”

Barrett, the city administrator, suspects Bussiere will have a hard time putting Lewiston out of his mind entirely, even as he moves halfway across the country. 

“I know he will keep his eye on Lewiston,” Barrett predicted, “even if, for a time, it’s from afar.”


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