RANGELEY — Police Chief Russell French is more likely to be seen on patrol, walking around town, or at a community event than in his office.

In his nearly seven months as chief, French has been out and about getting to know people and making sure they know he and his officers are available and ready to listen and help.

He is a staunch supporter of community policing.

“I think a lot of officers believe they are doing community policing just by being out in the community and assisting someone,” he said. “What we’ve done is play on the importance of community policing. What I wanted my officers to do is put an emphasis on making citizens feel comfortable enough to come up to them while they are working.”

He wants them to be more visible and more approachable.

“I know myself, I will only be in this building when I need to make a phone call or meet with someone,” he said.

It is important for the chief and officers to be out on the road and talking to people, he said.

“I think we are turning the corner,” he said. “The other day I had a citizen approach me to tell me it is nice to see police out on the roads. I think it is very positive and we want to keep expanding on it and moving it forward.”

Town Manager Tim Pellerin said French has done a “phenomenal job with community policing. I am absolutely thrilled.”

French has been involved in the investigation of a deadly home invasion in late July. A New York man was shot to death and two others injured at a rental unit on Main Street in the downtown. Maine State Police are still investigating, and no one has been charged.

French told those at a news conference that day that the town is very safe.

“We do feel safe,” resident Danielle Lemay said Wednesday. “Because of the circumstances and what it was I don’t feel unsafe. It was very surprising, but coming from Southern California, this was something that was common near the border.”

French has lots of ideas about what he would like to see his officers do, including having an officer patrol the area on a bicycle, which he did through a partnership with local business AJ’s Cycles, he said.

“As we expand our community policing down the road, I want to do a citizens police academy,” French said.

People are beginning to share information and concerns with him.

Besides the chief, the department has two full-time officers, Sgt. Jared Austin and officer Jacob Richards. There are also three reserve officers and French is looking to hire one more.

Richards is currently attending the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

“As a first-time chief, there is a lot of pride in developing a police officer,” French said.

He is also getting a handle on what is going on with illegal drugs in town.

“The community needs to know they are here and probably here to stay,” he said. “We need folks to report suspicious activities.”

Besides getting drugs off the street, police are willing to help people who may be addicted to them, he said.

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