Farmington Police Department has been recognized for becoming the 16th in the state to successfully complete the Maine Law Enforcement Accreditation Program [MLEAP]. Pictured from left during the presentation Tuesday evening, Jan. 10, are Office Manager Lynne Cary, Officer Ryan Rosie, Deputy Chief Shane Cote, Chief Kenneth Charles and Dirigo Safety Law Enforcement Services Manager Shawn O’Leary during the selectmen meeting at the Municipal Building in Farmington. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

FARMINGTON — During the selectmen meeting Tuesday night, Jan. 10, Police Chief Kenneth Charles and his department were recognized for achieving accreditation through the Maine Law Enforcement Accreditation Program (MLEAP).

Dirigo Safety worked with the Maine Chiefs of Police Association to develop MLEAP, Shawn O’Leary, law enforcement services manager with Dirigo Safety said. The Maine Chiefs of Police Association, Maine Sheriff’s 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 stated. More than three years were spent developing a set of standards for law enforcement agencies to work towards to become recognized as being an outstanding and professional department, he stated.

“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.”

Reaching the required standards is not a rubber stamp, was a lot of work, O’Leary said. Farmington will be the 16th department in the state to be fully accredited, and in three years will have to go through the accreditation process again, he added.

MLEAP is a voluntary program.

“Attaining accreditation through MLEAP means that [Farmington] meets or exceeds the 162 identified standards for Maine law enforcement agencies that are applicable to the agency,” the 21-page MLEAP Accreditation Assessment Report dated Dec. 5, 2022, notes. “These standards cover all aspects of law enforcement operations, including the use of force, protection of citizen rights, pursuits, property and evidence management, and patrol and investigation operations. While being accredited does not guarantee an agency will not make a mistake, it does ensure that the agency has carefully thought about these critical issues, has developed policy and procedures to address them, and has systems in place to identify and correct problems.”

The assessing team of Chief Elliott Moya of Eliot PD, Chief Marc Hagan of Topsham PD, and Sgt. Kevin Conger Jr. of Falmouth PD worked closely with Charles and his team to ensure that all applicable proofs complied with the standards and completed the off-site assessment on Nov. 21, the report states. On-site [verification] and assessment was completed Dec. 6, it notes.


The report offered two best practice recommendations that can be implemented voluntarily if the department chooses to do so: Update training so that portions [quizzes and scenarios] meet current policies, and formalize a plan with a directive on where detainees are transported if the Franklin County Jail cannot accept them.

“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, [Town Manager] Mr. Waller and Mr. Davis before him.”

Charles recognized Jocelyn Kelly, office assistant, and Deputy Chief Shane Cote for their help during the process. 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 and $10,040 from the Municipal Building reserve accounts to purchase and install an Airvac 911 exhaust removal system in the fire bay.

“Diesel fumes are dangerous,” Town Manager Christian Waller said.


“We started this conversation at the last meeting,” Chairman Matthew Smith 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, Waller noted. It will also have an impact on other employees in the building, he added.

This system is based on truck movement, will come on automatically, Hardy said. The current system has to be manually started, 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 now is part of a national non-profit 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 currently 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.”

Travelling statewide to any fire department willing to hear about carcinogen reduction and trying to save fellow firefighters from cancer experiences similar to his will continue, Bunker noted. He wants to bring a message of hope to those diagnosed with cancer that it is not an automatic death sentence.

“There are numerous, miraculous breakthroughs being reported in earlier diagnosis and treatment, and to be forever hopeful” Bunker said. “I serve as a living example of these advances.”

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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