FARMINGTON — Scott Nichols Sr. of New Sharon is seeking his third-term as sheriff of Franklin County on Nov. 3.

Scott Nichols Sr., 59, of New Sharon Submitted photo

He is being challenged for the position by Edward Hastings IV of Chesterville, a Farmington police sergeant. Both Nichols and Hastings answered questions from the Sun Journal in separate stories.

Nichols began his career in Maine law enforcement 36 years ago. Twenty-three of those years were with the Maine State Police, five years were as chief of Carrabassett Valley Police Department, and eight years as sheriff. He also spent one year in Iraq as an advisor to the Iraqi National Police. Nichols spent six years in the U.S. Army, three years of active duty and three years as a reserve.

“As an incumbent I have accomplished much over the last eight years. I will continue to look to the future, building upon those accomplishments of the past,” Nichols said of why he is running for the position.

“I, along with a great staff, have increased patrol visibility, returned the jail to a full-time operation, created new and exciting community policing programs that not only engage the public but provide a service as well,” he said. “Part of the building process for the future must focus upon the jail itself. Working with our County Commissioners and Board of Visitors to evaluate the needs of the 37-year-old facility. We will be focusing on structural needs as well as working with local groups to help reduce recidivism and battle the opioid crises that breeds it. Doing all of this, ever mindful that budget increases mean property tax increases.”

He believes the biggest challenge facing law enforcement is keeping staff.

“Employee retention is probably the greatest challenge we and other law enforcement organizations face, especially in today’s environment. Personnel issues are the hardest to tackle. We strive to hire the best, period. For various reasons folks sometimes decide to move on, whether they have discovered the position does not fit them personally, for family reasons, or they just find a better fit for their family. Deputies and corrections officers work a lot of nights, weekends and holidays and sometimes they would rather be home with their families like most people are,” Nichols said.

An employee may not be able to keep up with the high standards of the agency or are unwilling to do so, he said.

“Health issues may arise which degrades job performance and they are simply no longer able to perform the necessary duties,” Nichols said. “Sometimes you simply get a bad apple and we must go through the process of removing them. This is an extremely difficult and precarious task that can take a very long time. It is always the policy of this office to empower our employees to be the best and to provide them the necessary training, tools and the encouragement to do so.”

He believes the type of crimes most prevalent in Franklin County are related to opioid addiction.

“Opioid addiction without a doubt is the single biggest contributor to crime and recidivism,” Nichols said. “We partnered with the Healthy Community Coalition two years ago to assist us in this battle. We know we cannot arrest our way out of the drug crisis. We hope that by having peer recovery coaches in the jail, this will help guide inmates in the direction of services available to them once released. This, coupled with our (Medically Assisted Treatment) program that treats inmates currently on an opioid addiction program, will be most effective to those wishing to participate.”

Opioids get the most attention, he said, however domestic violence is probably the leading contender when it comes to police response.

“Initially it is hard to detect when a domestic call is going to occur unless we have some sort of pre-warning. If we know an event is possible, we are able to provide information about services available to the potential victim to either prevent it or provide some sort of protection such as a Protection From Abuse order, Protection From Harassment orders, etc. There are many groups out there such as Safe Voices, the Children’s Task Force and (Department of Health and Human Services) that provide education and services before and after an assault occurs,” Nichols said.

On the subject of whether the county is spending enough money on law enforcement and the jail, Nichols said, “By utilizing available grants and working with the collective bargaining units that represent patrol and corrections, we have been able to provide excellent service over the years without significant increases in either budget.”

“The jail budget is unique because we do not have total control over it and are capped as to how much that budget can increase. Recently we started to board inmates from other overcrowded jail facilities which will bring in much needed revenue to plug the built-in jail budget gap we experience every year,” he said.


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