Androscoggin County Sheriff Eric Samson

I think we can all agree that 2020 was a year for the record books. As our communities have struggled with the scourge of coronavirus, we here at the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office have done our very best to maintain a superior level of service while moving the ball forward on long-overdue capital projects.

We have worked hard to contain the spread of COVID-19 in our facilities. We have consistently gone above and beyond Centers for Disease Control guidelines to keep our staff, inmates, and the public as safe as possible. Even with these guidelines in place we did experience an outbreak at our facility. Thanks to our dedicated corrections officers and the epidemiologists at the Maine CDC we were able to contain it to less than 9% of our population. Since that outbreak all inmates have recovered.

Similarly, we have had some of our staff test positive for COVID-19. We are thankful that less than 10% of our staff have been infected by the virus. All have recovered after suffering mild symptoms.

After being notified of necessary changes to our call-sharing agreement by the Maine State Police, our team realized that these changes would cause our calls for service to go up, resulting in longer wait times for the community. Keeping taxpayer dollars top of mind, our team went to work. We applied for a “Cops Fast Grant,” which allowed us to receive federal dollars to hire the staff necessary to continue providing the level of service that Androscoggin County has come to expect and deserves.

Perhaps our biggest accomplishment was the overhaul of our antiquated emergency radio/communications network. This was a massive multi-year effort that required much collaboration between the Androscoggin County Commission, businesses, landowners, and varying levels of governments and agencies. On Dec. 17, our new system came online after installing new and updated hardware, building out quality radio towers in crucial locations, and gaining the ability to link all six radio sites together with one computer system.

These necessary and state-of-the-art improvements have enabled our department to break through the very congested airways, as cell phone service has exploded since the last improvements were done in the early 2000s. The department has attempted to protect our system by installing redundancies for bad weather conditions and power failures. We have also done our best to future-proof our system by installing the ability to change formats as required by the Federal Communications Commission. This essential upgrade has provided crystal clear and secure service from one end of the county to the other.

Fortunately, we have been able to keep our staff at near full capacity during the pandemic. It is difficult to maintain staffing when in-service, basic, and specialty trainings have all been restricted during this time. We have only three positions vacant and are doing everything we can to fill them.

2020 saw the retirement of our K9, Bosco. Bosco’s service was exemplary and left a very big hole to fill in our office. We brought on a new K9 named Sampson, named after now-departed Deputy Dennis Sampson. Deputy Vic Barr and Sampson are now on patrol in Androscoggin County, keeping our communities safe.

While this past year has provided many challenges, we have been thankful for the support and dedication of community members, faith-based organizations, local businesses, county commissioners, and our many partners for their cooperation and support this past year. Together we have accomplished a great deal.

Eric Samson of Auburn is Androscoggin County sheriff.

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