Black Lives Matters protesters kneel on the street in front of the Lewiston Police Department in early June. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Over the course of two weeks this month, Lewiston police closed streets, managed traffic and then marched alongside protesters in a series of four rallies organized to address matters of racial tensions.

Then, in the midst of all that, the City Council passed a resolution condemning racial profiling and excessive force by police in the city.

On Friday, the Lewiston Police Patrol Union issued a statement that addressed the matter while issuing demands for more training and body cameras for officers.

“First and foremost, let this be clear: The members of the Lewiston Police Patrol Union stand with the Lewiston City Council in its commitment to achieving equality and equal justice for all and condemning any and all racially discriminatory policing practices,” the statement begins. “Our members believe law enforcement to be among the most honorable of professions and are as outraged as the general public when Police Officers across the country misrepresent the badge and carry out abhorrent deeds. Unfortunately, law enforcement is also the most publicly scrutinized profession, and the only one in which the deplorable acts of a rogue member are projected upon all of the ethical and upstanding members nationwide.

“The Lewiston City Council,” the statement continues, “was recently presented with an opportunity to simultaneously condemn these acts as well as recognize the progressive and proactive actions of the members whom the Lewiston Patrol Union represents. Instead, we were disappointed to listen to the majority of the council choose to both openly and covertly associate our officers with current national events, disputable studies and historical incidents which are extraneous to the current state of policing in Lewiston, Maine.”

Earlier this week, the council voted 6-1 to approve the resolution introduced by Councilor Safiya Khalid last week on the heels of Black Lives Matter protests in Lewiston and across the nation.

An alternative version of the resolution, shared by Mayor Mark Cayer on Tuesday, was ultimately not considered due to feedback from the public and a majority of the council supporting Khalid’s language.

“Following a recent meeting,” according to the police union statement, “which was called by Mayor Cayer, to discuss the then-upcoming Council’s resolve, members of the Patrol Union Executive Board were hopeful that our suggestions and concerns to the resolve were heard and would be incorporated accordingly. As this did not transpire, the Lewiston Police Patrol Union feels it necessary to make our response public.”

The resolution passed this week commits the city to conduct anti-bias and de-escalation training for police personnel, expand efforts to recruit and hire individuals from minority communities, and through an ad hoc committee, review the process by which citizen complaints against police officers are investigated.

According to the statement, the union:

• “Echoes the Lewiston City Council’s condemnation of excessive police use of force, brutality and racial profiling.”

• “Has and will continue to stand with our community in these times of adversity and beyond in our pursuit to provide excellent services to all.”

• “Emphasizes that stats, figures and studies in law enforcement are often unreliable and rarely express a truthful narrative. The truest indicator of our patrol officers’ effectiveness is the public’s perception and comfort with them; we look forward to an honest and open discussion on how we can improve on both.”

It also requests the following from the city:

• “The immediate funding of body cameras for all sworn personnel for the protection of both the public and our officers.”

• “Mandatory paid monthly use of force training for all patrol officers and detectives.”

• “Require all City Councilors, including the Mayor, attend a Citizen Police Academy course within one year of taking office.”

• “Require all City Councilors, including the Mayor, attend ”Shoot/Don’t Shoot” training within one year of taking office.”

• “Require all City Councilors, including the Mayor, participate in no-less-than five Patrol Ride-Alongs within one year of taking office.”

• “A timely reply from the City in reference to these requests; an emergency meeting of the Union body will be called to discuss the protection of our officers, to include recommendations to cease nonessential and self-initiated contacts with the public, until we feel we have received an adequate response.”

• “Recognizes the many years of proactive outreach our officers have diligently provided through channels such as the Community Resource Team, School Resource Officer program and countless hours of volunteerism during National Night Out, Lewiston’s Summer Fun and Films, Citizen Police Academy courses, Police Athletic League, Special Olympics, etc. These programs and events help ‘humanize’ Officers, network our resources with social service agencies and make the police department accessible to many who would otherwise decline our assistance, including those in low-income areas impacted by generational poverty.”

• “Believes transparency is a necessity in building trust with the community. We welcome a review of our policies and standards and are confident that they will exceed expectations.”

• “Welcomes officers of all backgrounds to our patrol division regardless of race or nationality. In fact, if not for a patrol officer transferring out of state and an officer resigning during the latest police academy cycle the minority population of our patrol division would very closely resemble the demographics of the City of Lewiston. We would also like to state that our administration has gone above and beyond in the attempt to attract, find, and hire minorities.”


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