2016-09-29 / Front Page

Commission touches on nation-wide police issues

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD – Police Chief Roger Beaupre updated the police commission this month about the department’s efforts to recruit and retain police officers and update policies.

Beaupre said police departments everywhere are struggling to keep positions filled.

“If I’m a graduate from college and I want to be a police officer, I’m going to pick the department where I want to work because they’re all hiring,” Beaupre said. “They’re all suffering. There’s not a department I know of that isn’t understaffed.”

Police officers have began crisis intervention training this month, and Beaupre said even though departments are required to have 20 percent of their police officers go through the training, he is aiming for 100 percent of Biddeford’s officers to be trained in the one-week course.

To train the entire department, Beaupre said he’s had entire shift staffs take the course in the same week.

“So when all the guys on first shift are gone for a week, all the guys in second shift come in four hours early and the guys in third shift stay four hours later,” Beaupre said.

Commissioner Roger Gagnon asked Beaupre if social attitudes on law enforcement were affecting officers.

“What’s the feeling of officers with everything going on?” Gagnon asked. “Officers are getting shot … Are people not wanting to come into this service?”

“It’s a question of being aware of your surroundings,” Beaupre said. “I view some interactions from officers and it’s amazing how they hold their cool. Even though they get shout at and spit at and everything, they stay calm and collected.”

Beaupre also reported that the department is progressing in its efforts to become credentialed with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, an organization that works to improve law enforcement agencies by developing and promoting national standards. Beaupre said departments have three years to get accredited once they begin the process.

“I think we’re ahead of the curve already because policies we have in place already reflect what they require,” he said. “The whole CALEA process is based on policies – policies in writing and proof that you are training and testing on those policies.”

Beaupre said there are 159 different policy points to address.

“For example, use of force may have 20 policies built into that particular thing. We’re already doing most of it, but just have to add one little component so we can comply … So it’s a way of monitoring trends and that type of thing.

“Other things that are required, which we’re already doing is stuff like the evidence room – having accountability and checks and balances in place. We have a camera in the evidence room and it’s recorded.

“So that’s what makes this process a little easier for us, we’re just doing a lot of stuff that’s mandated. If we get the stamp of accreditation on the door, it just recognizes things that we’ve been doing all along.”

Commissioner Leo Simoneau asked Beaupre if the department intended to replace the officer who died at the beginning of September, Detective Peter Wentworth, who was the only Biddeford officer licensed to perform polygraph tests.

Beaupre said the process of becoming certified to learn how to use polygraph machines can take as long as 18 months and no other police officers in the department are certified or have expressed interest in becoming certified.

“It’s going to hamper the department,” Beaupre said. “It’s a specialized skill.”

Beaupre said polygraph certification is in such demand, that Portland and Sanford would often call upon Biddeford to provide the service if they were backed up.

Beaupre also appeared at the Sept. 20 Biddeford City Council meeting to pay respect and to offer a moment of silence for Wentworth.

“We have received many expressions of gratitude from representatives of outside agencies, members of law enforcement in general, and his co-workers in particular for their having met, associated with, or working with Pete,” Beaupre said. “Pete would do anything to assist another officer with an investigation. He was always eager to help.”

At the commission meeting, Beaupre also reported to the commission an update on construction efforts on Main Street. Other than entertaining reports and updates from the chief, the commission did not conduct any other business or take any votes, except to adjourn.

– Anthony Aloisio contributed to this story.

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