FARMINGTON — Edward Hastings IV of Chesterville is challenging Scott Nichols Sr. for a four-year term on Nov. 3 to become sheriff of Franklin County.

Edward Hastings IV, 37, of Chesterville. Submitted photo

Hastings  has worked in law enforcement since 2004 and served as patrolman, state fire investigator, and patrol supervisor for the Farmington Police Department. He is also chief of the Livermore Falls Fire Rescue Department.

Hastings and Nichols answered the same questions for the Sun Journal in separate stories, including why each is running for sheriff.

“I am running for office to extend my lifelong dedication in public safety to the citizens of Franklin County. Immediately after announcing I was running for sheriff people began to reach out to show their support and express their concerns,” Hastings said. “I am still receiving messages daily from residents stating it’s time for a change. Most importantly, I would really like to see us all working together — across agencies and town lines — to improve our neighborhoods. The feedback I am receiving is that community members would really like to see a proactive, community-oriented law enforcement agency, with some fresh ideas serving them too.”

He feels there are a few big challenges facing law enforcement in the area.

“The drug epidemic, building community trust, employee retention, and the mental health problem are all real challenges we face here in Franklin County,” he said..

Hastings believes the most prevalent crimes in Franklin County are the drug epidemic, operating under the influence and fatal crashes, and he says he has a plan to deal with these.

“This year in Maine, more people have died from drug overdoses than COVID-19. Law enforcement is trying to gain the upper hand on the epidemic by focusing on treatment, stopping the dealers, and slowing the supply; however, there is more work to be done. I plan to work more closely with our communities in hopes to improve communication and more quickly address the problem areas, as well as working with our medical professionals to improve access to treatment,” Hastings said.

This past year the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office turned over their responsibility to investigate all fatal crashes to the Maine State Police, he said.

“Believe it or not, they are the only law enforcement agency in Franklin County who has turned over that responsibility,” Hastings said. “The current reason provided for doing this seems to suggest it is related to cost. In reality, there is no additional cost to our taxpayers to investigate fatal crashes. All officers are trained to investigate fatal accidents at the police academy. All area agencies already utilize the State Police for the specialties of crash reconstruction and forensic mapping.”

Waiting for State Police response is not always possible or practical, according to Hastings.

“State Police are also understaffed and working short-handed. I have personally investigated these types of incidents and you cannot wait on the side of the road for an hour or more with an impaired driver as another agency comes to the rescue. More importantly, our deputies already have the proper training, the skills and the tools needed to do a remarkable job with these cases on their own. With proper guidance, there is no reason our deputies cannot provide this service to our residents,” he said.

“I am passionate about Franklin County Sheriff’s Office resuming their responsibility of investigating our own fatal crashes as soon as possible. Fatal crashes are incidents that effect our families, friends and neighbors. Based on my community-focused approach to law enforcement, I feel it will be vital for our deputies to be handling their own investigations,” Hastings said.

Hastings said he believes the county is spending enough money on law enforcement and the jail.

“The 2021 law enforcement budget is $1,824,095. This is a $402,688 increase in the last nine years and does not include the recent $100,000 increase this past summer with the creation of a deputy paid for through the unorganized territories budget,” Hastings said. “The 2021 jail budget is $2,254,282. This is a $633,081 increase in just the past four years. Given these numbers, which were provided by the County Commissioner’s Office, the Sheriff’s budget has increased over 34% in the past nine years. With these increases I believe we need to take a closer look at how we are spending our tax dollars.”

A skill that Hastings said he brings to the table is his personal experience with writing grants, negotiating fair prices for services or products, and working with the federal surplus equipment program to acquire tools that will save the county taxpayers money.

Hastings and his wife, Mary, have two children, Lily and Jackson.

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