DIXFIELD — The Dixfield Police Department has been shut down because of a “personnel issue,” Town Manager Carlo Puiia said Wednesday.

According Hart Daley, the Oxford County chief deputy and a Dixfield selectman, Puiia called Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant on Tuesday at around noon and requested police coverage for the town from the Sheriff’s Department.

The only two full-time officers on the force, Chief Jefferey Howe and patrol officer Anne Simmons-Edmunds, were placed on paid administrative leave, and the reserve officers will not be scheduled.

Neither Howe, who has been with the department since August 1999, nor Edmunds, who has been with the department since February 2011, have any history of disciplinary action. Puiia stressed that although both have been placed on paid administrative leave, the personnel issue lies with only one of them.

According to the Portland Press Herald, a spokesman for the union representing Simmons-Edmunds said the investigation was about the chief’s use of time.

Several residents of Dixfield expressed uneasiness with the sudden shutdown of the department, but Puiia said they should realize that not only do residents hire police officers to uphold the law, but they elect town officials to do the same.

“Occasionally management has to take action to make sure things run properly.  This is not an elimination of the department, but rather an interruption of their service,” Puiia said.

All department property, including patrol cars, computers, firearms and ammunition, has been seized and moved by the Sheriff’s Department to “prevent any vandalism” while the Dixfield police station is shut down.

Puiia said he hopes the matter will be resolved within three to four weeks, and more information will be provided at that time. 

“We have confidence in the Sheriff’s Office and his staff to provide us with the law enforcement services we need as we go through this difficult time,” Puiia said.

The Sheriff’s Office will not be conducting the 24-hour patrols the town has previously had, but will respond to all calls for service. Residents are encouraged to call 911 with any emergencies.

Oxford County dispatch can be reached at 1-800-733-1421.

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