Somerset County welcomed newly elected Sheriff Dale Lancaster to office in 2015, along with a new chief deputy, James Ross, and Mike Pike, the new domestic violence investigator in the Somerset County district attorney’s office.

The town of Skowhegan swore in a new police chief in 2015, Don Bolduc, who took over in August after the unexpected resignation of former Chief Ted Blais.

Meanwhile in 2015, Troop C of the Maine State Police, based in Skowhegan, conducted the longest and most expensive manhunt in state history last summer, tracking down murder suspect Robert Burton.

And the 2015 news in Somerset County law enforcement didn’t stop there.

Somerset County became the first county in Maine to use ankle bracelet monitoring to track domestic violence offenders. The sheriff’s office also has worked successfully with county commissioners and the county budget committee to add a ninth patrol position, so the sheriff’s office now has three deputies on the road for each eight-hour shift.

“My first year in office was extremely busy and I feel fortunate to have been entrusted with the responsibility,” said Lancaster, who was elected sheriff in November 2014 when he was deputy chief. “We reorganized, focused the work effort, set goals and planned for the future. There is a lot of work that needs to be accomplished, but I feel confident that we will meet our goals.”

Other additions to the county sheriff’s patrol include an investment of $70,000 to install “high-end, in-car” cameras in patrol vehicles for officer safety and the safety of county residents who deal with the police.

“Other than $7,000 that came out of capital reserve, the money has come from drug seizure forfeitures and grants,” Lancaster said.

The sheriff’s department under Lancaster’s watch also updated handguns agencywide, standardizing weapons issued to each deputy. Supervisory training and crisis intervention training for patrol deputies also were instituted this year, he said.

A deputy has been sent for arson investigation training as the county works to assist local fire departments and the Office of the State Fire Marshal with fire scene investigations, Lancaster said. County officials also are working with Redington-Fairview General Hospital for use of nasal Naloxone to reverse the effects of heroin overdoses.

“We are participating in a Somerset County Drug Task Force to review how we can look for outside revenue sources to provide programs to individuals once they leave incarceration,” he said.

Lancaster said he’ll work in 2016 toward assuring that the county jail in East Madison becomes nationally accredited and will continue working with the Legislature to solidify boarding rates for inmates taken in from outside of Somerset County. One of the top goals, Lancaster said, will be to refine state law to reverse jail consolidation.

He said the sheriff’s office will continue to partner with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency for an agent in Somerset County to help deal with the heroin problem and to become more involved with the problem of human trafficking.

Lancaster said he also is in the process of hiring a programs manager to help inmates once they get out of jail, especially those with addiction problems.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE EFFORT

Somerset County domestic violence investigator Mike Pike, who took over for James Ross when Ross was appointed chief deputy, said advances made in 2015 will continue full speed into the new year.

“I think the implementation of the 911 cellphone program for crime victims as well as the series we recorded for Channel 11 are two successes that come to mind,” Pike said of his first year in the DA’s office. “I’ve had a very enjoyable first year. I believe Somerset County is a role model for the rest of the state in our coordinated response to the serious issue of domestic violence.”

Pike hosted a six-part series, “Social Violence Doesn’t Discriminate,” produced by Somerset Community TV 11 and the Domestic Violence Task Force. Channel 11 is a community access television station serving parts of Anson, Madison and Skowhegan.

The mini-series, including input from Somerset County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, will begin airing in the new year, station manager John Harlow said.

“This program aims to address the issues of domestic violence affecting people of Somerset County regardless of gender, race or social class,” Harlow said. “These discussions are led by professionals from law enforcement, health occupations and members of various organizations available for those who are experiencing physical, mental and emotional violence in their lives.”

Harlow said the series aims to make people aware of the resources that are available to them along with the relationship that exists between law enforcement and agencies that act as advocates for people who are living with domestic violence, child neglect, elder abuse and spousal abuse.

Pike said he “looks forward in 2016 to continuing to build relationships with domestic violence service providers as well as other community partners, building relationships based on trust and dignity for survivors and one of accountability for offenders.”

FULL STAFF IN SKOWHEGAN

In Skowhegan, police Chief Don Bolduc said his aim for the coming year is getting the Police Department up to full staff of 15.

“Being full staff and staying that way will allow us to work on being a proactive police department,” Bolduc said. “We will continue emphasizing training and future advancement within the department.”

Two patrol officers, Michael Bachelder and Christopher Viera, completed the 18-week police officer training program at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy; and two more officers are set to begin the program in the new year, Bolduc said.

“I am very excited about the upcoming year,” Bolduc said. “We have the potential to be full staff very shortly. I am very pleased with the support of the Police Department from Town Manager Christine Almand and the selectmen with the existing budget and previous union contact negotiations.

“We are close to being competitive with other neighboring agencies comparable to us and the upcoming negotiations and budget will pave the way to stop the revolving door and retain well-trained competent officers with experience,” he said. “We currently are in the final process with two applicants, and if we hire them, then we will have full staff of 15.”

Lt. Mark Brooks, commander of state police Troop C, covering Somerset, Franklin and Kennebec counties, said 2015 was one of the busiest years in memory. He said his goals include filling out his roster with more troopers on the road in 2016.

“From an increase in heroin usage and dependency, to residential, commercial and camp burglaries, an increase in both motorcycle and motor vehicle fatal crashes and the largest manhunt in Maine history, the troopers in central Maine have been stretched thin,” Brooks said.

He said the command staff is awaiting the graduation in April of another class from the State Police Recruit Training Troop.

“Currently, we are down five troopers in Troop C, and we have hopes after a successful recruiting effort to fill those vacancies this spring,” he said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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