BY DAVID HENCH

The Portland Press Herald

A state police sergeant, who was a mentor for recruits at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy because of his investigative experience and his unblemished record over 17 years as a trooper, is on paid leave, charged with driving drunk while off duty.

Sgt. Robin Parker of Sanford was charged Sunday after he was stopped by a trooper in the northbound lanes of the Maine Turnpike in Gray, said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety.

McCausland said he did not know what prompted the traffic stop. He said there was no crash.

Parker was released and driven to his destination by someone else, McCausland said. He was in his personal vehicle and was not on duty.

McCausland withheld Parker’s blood alcohol content, which is standard in cases that have not yet been presented in court. No court date has been set.

He said the evidence will be reviewed by Col. Robert Williams, chief of the Maine State Police.

Parker was treated the same as anyone who is charged with driving drunk, said Sgt. Michael Edes, president of the Maine State Troopers Association.

Typically, a trooper does not take a drunken-driving suspect to jail because it ties up the trooper for an extended period, Edes said. Instead, the suspect is given a blood alcohol test, issued a court summons and allowed to get a ride home.

Edes described Sunday’s incident as a routine traffic stop but could not say what led to the stop. Two other troopers who were in the area responded, he said.

Parker is a respected trooper who served two tours of duty with the Marines in Iraq before joining the department in 1994, Edes said.

“He has never received one iota of discipline in his career,” Edes said. “He is really beating himself up over this. His whole thing is, ‘I’ve let people down.'”

Jonathan Goodman, an attorney with Troubh Heisler who is representing Parker, said his client should get the same consideration in the criminal justice system as someone who is not an officer.

“He didn’t seek, nor was he given, any special favors on Sunday,” Goodman said. “He doesn’t want that now. He just wants to be treated like anyone else in the same situation.”

Asked whether law enforcement officers should be held to a higher standard, Goodman said, “It’s self-evident someone in his position faces greater consequences on the employment side of things.”

Neither McCausland nor Goodman would discuss details of the case, including where Parker was going or where he had been.

The charge could end Parker’s career, but that isn’t necessarily likely.

The Maine Criminal Justice Academy’s board of trustees reviews allegations of misconduct against police and corrections officers, and can revoke or suspend an officer’s law enforcement certification.

State law allows the board to suspend or revoke an officer’s certification for a Class D misdemeanor — a class that includes drunken driving. The board considers the behavior, not the charge, so regardless of the outcome of the criminal case, the board can suspend or revoke the certification, said John Rogers, director of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

When a department is supportive of an officer, the board often reaches a consent agreement in which the officer must meet certain conditions, such as alcohol counseling, to maintain certification.

Edes said Parker’s record should be a benefit in the consideration of his case.

“We’ve had guys that this has ended their careers, and we’ve had other guys bounce back, take a hard hit, suspension … demotion, and be able to come back and serve the people,” Edes said.

Parker was assigned six months ago as the permanent state police cadre supervisor at the Criminal Justice Academy, working with recruits in the 18-week basic law enforcement school, reporting directly to Rogers.

The cadres help recruits put their classroom learning into a real-world context, Rogers said. The academy’s latest class graduated Dec. 16.

“I try to pick people who law enforcement officers should emulate, so as they go through their career they can always look up to their cadre,” Rogers said.

Parker has experience in investigations, and worked in the state police crime lab and on the crisis debriefing team. “He’s a very good guy,” Rogers said. “He was a very good cadre. “This issue absolutely surprised me.”

Parker’s assignment at the academy was terminated after he was charged, Rogers said. The decision was made by Col. Williams, and Rogers said he supports it.

“I cannot afford to have people in a cadre role, or cadre supervisor role, that aren’t of the highest ethical integrity and, obviously, a very clean background,” Rogers said. “This charge would affect that.”