FARMINGTON — Police Chief Kenneth Charles and his department were recognized by selectmen Tuesday night for earning accreditation through the Maine Law Enforcement Accreditation Program.

Dirigo Safety worked with the Maine Chiefs of Police Association to develop the program, said Shawn O’Leary, law enforcement services manager with Dirigo Safety. The Maine Chiefs of Police Association, Maine Sheriffs’ Association and the Maine Attorney General’s Office felt it was necessary to have some mechanism in place for law enforcement to have best practices policies, procedures and training, he said. More than three years were spent developing a set of standards for law enforcement agencies to work toward being recognized as being an outstanding and professional department, he said.

“This is a great opportunity to showcase your Police Department,” O’Leary said. “Throughout the (accreditation) process the Farmington Police Department had to rework all their policies. They actually had to show they were following those policies. In addition to that, their training had to be increased.

“In law enforcement, public safety liability is very high. Keeping transparency, and really showing they are a professional organization doing the right things is paramount,” O’Leary said.

Farmington will be the 16th department in the state to be fully accredited, and in three years will go through the process again, he added.

“It has been just about two years I have been in this position,” Charles said. “I couldn’t be more thankful for a really supportive community, Board of Selectmen and of course,” he said, Town Manager Christian Waller and former Town Manager Richard Davis.


Charles recognized office assistant Jocelyn Kelly and Deputy Chief Shane Cote for their help. It was a team effort to develop policies and procedures, implement training, plus the attentiveness of the entire staff, he noted. The department had been short staffed, has filled some vacancies but is still looking for one patrol officer and a detective, he stated.

“What a difference,” Charles said. “We are not rushing anything. I would rather wait and run short than take shortcuts and hire people that don’t meet the standards that you all would expect from your law enforcement agency.”

In other business, selectmen approved expenditures of $21,000 from the fire equipment reserve account and $10,040 from the municipal building reserve account to purchase and install an Airvac 911 exhaust removal system in the fire bay.

“Diesel fumes are dangerous,” Waller said.

“I did reach out to another company; they couldn’t come until the end of the week,” Fire Chief TD Hardy said. “I believe this is the most cost effective.”

This system will clean equipment when it returns from fires and will have an impact on other employees in the building, he said.


This system is based on truck movement and will come on automatically, Hardy said. The current system has to be manually started and isn’t as safe, he added.

Selectman Stephan Bunker, who is also a firefighter, noted he doesn’t typically speak regarding fire department issues and abstains when votes are taken. “But in this instance, I do want to speak to the topic at hand as it is both professional and a personal issue to me,” he noted. “I have come to learn that cancer has become the No. 1 killer of firefighters, surpassing deaths at the scenes, more than cardiac arrests, more than emergency vehicle accidents. Cancer is sometimes referred to as the silent killer.”

In spring 2020, Bunker was diagnosed with central nervous system lymphoma. He is part of a national nonprofit organization of firefighter cancer survivors, whose goals are to educate the fire service in ways to reduce exposure to carcinogens and offer peer support to fellow firefighters diagnosed with the disease.

“In a step towards full public disclosure, I have a pending worker comp claim against the town under the statute that provides cancer presumption as a work-related injury,” Bunker said. “But I am far more focused on prevention and eliminating the need for such claims. I have learned that among the best practices that departments can follow to reduce exposure to carcinogens is the reduction of diesel exhaust in the fire station.”

It is not the carbon monoxide in the exhaust but rather the prolonged exposure to diesel particles that are inhaled and absorbed, Bunker noted. Particles cling to walls, ceilings, and turnout gear, and this new system will help with decontamination, he said.

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