CLINTON — After 28 years in law enforcement and six years as the chief of police in Clinton, Craig Johnson is retiring and Sgt. Stanley Bell is taking over.

“I’m tired. I’m burning out,” Johnson, 47, said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Before I get burned out, I’ve got to take some time out and re-energize.”

Johnson’s last day at the department will be Thursday, after which Bell, who goes by Rusty, will take over as chief.

The change in leadership also brings other changes to the department. Bell will be a part-time chief whose focus will be solely on administrative work. Johnson was a full-time employee who split his time between patrol and administrative work.

“I’m excited,” said Bell, 55, of Benton. “I’ve participated in the No. 2 role here for three years and I think administration is where my strength lies.”

Johnson, 47, said Wednesday he got to meet “a lot of terrific people” in the town, but that working there was “tough at times.”


He did not specify what his plans are, only that he was “taking time off.” When asked if he would consider coming back to the Clinton Police Department in the future, Johnson said it would depend on whether there were any open positions.

The Police Department is coming off some turbulent years. Residents initially voted to not fund the department in 2009, 2013 and again last year, requiring multiple votes before a budget was passed. Last June, selectmen didn’t reappoint Johnson when a motion to do so failed to get a second, but did appoint him at the July meeting.

At public hearings before the 2013 budget was approved, residents complained about a poor relationship between the department and the town.

In March, former officer Scott Francis began serving a 120-day jail sentence for income tax evasion and perjury. Francis, 40, of Winslow, had been fired in March 2013 after he was arrested on a charge of domestic violence assault and a second assault charge, both of which were dismissed because of insufficient evidence.

Bell said Wednesday that Johnson’s retirement was not a big surprise.

“He has some things he would like to pursue, and I think it’s a good life move for him,” Bell said. “He’s in a position to do that, so I applaud him for it.”


The Police Department budget approved by residents June 14, which takes effect Friday, is $243,000. Bell said he expects no immediate changes to the budget, though he and Town Manager Pam Violette will review changes to the department and what effect they might have on the 2017-2018 budget.

The department now has one full-time and five part-time officers and is hiring an additional officer who will start part time with the opportunity to move into a full-time position, Bell said.

That officer will fill the patrol role that Johnson had, Bell said. Ideally, he said, the department will have three full-time officers and four to 10 reserve or part-time officers when fully staffed. Johnson’s retirement also coincides with the departure of a third officer, who left for a job with the Maine State Police.

As a result, Bell said, many of the details of his position have yet to be fully worked out, including how many hours a week he will be in the office and what his pay will be.

“We’re really more in the coordination phase right now, and I didn’t push the town manager,” he said. “We needed to come up with a structure, a plan for running the department first.”

As a part-time sergeant, Bell earns $12 per hour while patrol officers in Clinton make $16.40 per hour, he said. He works 15 to 25 hours per week as a sergeant.


“You don’t do something like this for the pay. It wasn’t my first question,” he said.

Bell, who owns Yankee Communications in Clinton and Yankee Trophy and the Benton Family Fun Park in Benton, said the changes mean he will focus more on administrative work, and having a separate full-time officer available during the day will be a better way to serve the community and meet the increase in the number of calls coming in.

“Chief Johnson was expected to be the administrator during the day and the patrol officer,” Bell said. “I think with the increase in calls that we’ve experienced over the last couple of years, it’s very important that our focus be on patrol and at the same time there’s someone to focus on the administrative and not be distracted. Before, you could be in the middle of filling out a report and get a call for a domestic (problem) that you have to go to, so I think it’s better for the town. It’s better all the way around.”

In 2015, a budget of $241,673 was voted down 150-140. In 2013, a budget of $197,954 was voted down 267-192. In 2009, the budget was rejected twice before it was approved.

Residents who attended public hearings in 2013 to debate the police budget complained about the department’s relationship with the town, though supporters pointed out that many of those complaints were about officers who were no longer with the department. Johnson and Warren Hatch, the town manager at the time, said they were working toward fixing the department’s problems.

Bell’s promotion to sergeant in November 2013 was hailed as one of the moves toward strengthening department leadership. He’d been hired as a reserve officer that spring.


“People have said that they’re glad Bell’s here and the department is finally getting help,” Johnson said at the time.

Last June, when Selectman Randy Clark moved to confirm Johnson’s appointment, it failed for lack of a second. Selectman Ronnie Irving said he’d heard from residents that they “would like a change.”

But at the next meeting, on July 11, Johnson was confirmed 3-1, with Selectman Ed Blanchard voting against confirming him.

Irving said he had “nothing to say” Wednesday night when contacted about Johnson’s retirement. Blanchard and Selectmen Geraldine Dixon also would not talk to the Morning Sentinel. Chairman Jeffrey Towne did not return a phone call immediately. Selectman Stephen Hatch said he’d “stand behind what Johnson thought was right.”

Bell has worked in law enforcement since 1980, starting his career as a patrol officer at the Pittsfield Police Department. He also worked as a sergeant for the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office and an investigator for the Maine secretary of state’s office.

Johnson started his career in the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department in 1988. He moved on to the Damariscotta Police Department in 1999 and stayed there until 2006, followed by two years at the Newport Police Department.


After Newport, he went to Clinton, where he started as a basic patrol officer and then gained the rank of sergeant before becoming the chief.

Madeline St. Amour – 861-9239

Twitter: @madelinestamour

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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