RUMFORD — Newly hired Police Chief Tony Milligan made a case to selectmen recently on the necessity of having an officer assigned to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, a practice the town has had since the 1980s.

Rumford Police Chief Tony Milligan Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

Speaking on his first day on the job Jan. 2, the veteran MDEA agent for the past 27 years said he has two department vacancies now and a third in a couple of weeks and no applicants.

Officer Austin Couture has joined the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office as a patrol deputy to be closer to his home. Milligan’s position is also open.

“In two weeks, we’ll have yet another vacancy caused by Sgt. Douglas Maifeld’s retirement after 30 years of full-time service to the department,” Milligan said.

These vacancies will certainly create a significant financial burden to the overtime budget until they successfully recruit and hire qualified replacements, he said.

“The good news is that we expect to receive approximately $32,000 from Franklin County Sheriff’s Office as reimbursement for training costs for Patrolman Couture, as required by law. But that money will not last long,” he said.

The town is offering a $5,000 signing bonus for qualified officers, but “we unfortunately still have not received any applications,” Milligan said. “We are competing with other law enforcement agencies facing similar shortages here in Maine, who are offering a much higher incentive and benefit package. And we may soon be forced to take another look at what we can and should offer.”

Milligan said the town “has enjoyed the privilege of receiving full salaried employee costs for officers assigned to drug agencies since the early ’80s. There have been two — Tim Bourassa and myself.

“As I’m sure you’ll all agree, Rumford has a drug epidemic, with drug trafficking organizations sending dealers from Massachusetts and New York to Rumford to distribute the drugs and making significant amount of cash, all at the expense of our citizens,” the chief said.

He said a significant amount of calls for service and criminal investigations can be attributed to drugs.

“In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in nonresident drug trafficking and criminal gang members being sent to Rumford to commit their crimes,” he said.

Thanks to Rumford’s investment of an officer assigned to MDEA, very significant arrests have occurred, which results in drug trafficking organizations being disrupted or dismantled in Rumford, he said.

“I make this point to tell you the town of Rumford cannot afford not to have someone assigned to the MDEA today, to help combat and control the flow of drugs, and drug trafficking organizations into our community,” he said. “We must keep the pressure on or we most certainly face significant ramifications that will adversely affect budgets, crime rates and quality of life for our citizens. This is a matter of public safety and of grave importance.”

Milligan said, “It is my intention to aggressively and creatively find ways to make our town as attractive as possible to find qualified officers to protect and serve our town, and assign an officer from our ranks to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency as soon as possible.”

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