FAIRFIELD — The town is taking steps to make sure its next chief of police will have a clear plan for moving the Fairfield Police Department forward.

Beginning June 17, the Maine Chiefs of Police Association will conduct a comprehensive audit of the department.

The town requested the audit because, with a new police chief slated to be hired in the coming months, it is an ideal time to review department procedures from top to bottom, said Town Manager Josh Reny.

“The department right now is in a point of transition,” Reny said.

Former Fairfield Police Chief John Emery resigned March 1 after an extended leave of absence that began Dec. 26. Two days before Emery went on leave, 15 law enforcement officials responded to a call about a “mental subject,” a police term, on Skowhegan’s Palmer Road, where Emery lives, but Skowhegan police would not confirm whether Emery was involved in that incident.

Reny said the town received 40 applications for the open police chief position. This week, a search committee is interviewing six candidates, including some from Maine.

On March 1, Fairfield entered into a four-month contract with Waterville’s police department to provide administrative services for the department. The contract, which expires June 30, is for $4,000 per month, which is being paid from a police reserve account.

Reny said town leaders are prepared to extend the contract if necessary, but hope to have the position filled by July 1.

Reny said the town decided to move forward with the $6,000 audit on the advice of Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey, who is also serving as acting chief in Fairfield under the contract.

“It’s a way to have an outsider take a look under the hood,” Reny said.

The audit will be performed by a team of three police chiefs, with a combined 25 years of experience leading their own departments, according to Robert Schwartz, executive director of the association.

In law enforcement, as in any industry, Schwartz said, “some departments do things differently, and some don’t do things at all.”

For three days, the team will meet with the council, existing staff and administrators, school officials, the district attorney and the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department.

Schwartz said the team will look at components such as communication, training, equipment, the way hours are assigned to staff members, policies and working conditions.

Members of the public are also invited to speak to the team, Schwartz said.

“We’re looking for constructive things,” Schwartz said. “We’re not looking to hear, ‘I got pinched by a police officer and he was rude.'”

Schwartz asked that those who would like to meet with the team call him at 799-9318 to schedule an appointment.

A public forum may be scheduled to gather public comments, according to Reny.

After the audit, team members will jointly issue a report that includes recommendations on how the department might improve.

Schwartz stressed that the process is not an investigation and there is no follow-up to measure compliance with recommendations. Instead, he said, it is meant to provide the incoming chief at Fairfield a “blueprint of the future.”

“That gives the new chief a direction to go,” he said.

This is the third audit the association has performed this year, following reviews of police departments in Hermon and Eastport. Two audits were completed in 2012, he said.

Schwartz said the association’s membership includes nearly all of the 120 police departments in the state, as well as 14 of the 16 sheriff’s departments.

He recommended that departments undergo the process every five years or less.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287
[email protected]

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