The person who called in a false alarm about an officer being shot Wednesday in Fairfield had used what authorities called a police radio, but it’s not clear how the radio was obtained and whether there’s a threat of additional public safety hoaxes.

The radio call came directly into police cruisers around 5 p.m., claiming that an officer was down on Ohio Hill Road and needed assistance, and that the officer was with an armed person, according to Fairfield police Chief Tom Gould.

A large police contingent responded. Officials from nine agencies descended on Fairfield to search up and down the road, and a helicopter flew above to check for anything unusual, Gould said in an interview Thursday.

However, the officers were unable to find anything that matched the call or was out of the ordinary.

Fairfield police wrote on their department Facebook page Wednesday evening that the report was apparently a “hoax.” In its Facebook post, the department apologizes for any fear the call may have caused in the community.

“We also appreciate all of the kind words and prayers that I have seen posted and being forwarded to us,” the department’s post states. “We’re sorry for the scare that we put into the residents of Fairfield, we were right there with you.”


Gould said Thursday he doesn’t yet know the cost for the manpower used in response to the call.

So far police have no suspects in the case, but all Fairfield officers were working on it Thursday and continued canvassing the area, Gould said.

If Fairfield police find the person who called in the false alarm, they will “absolutely” charge him or her, Gould said. The charge of making a false public report is a class D misdemeanor, punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

“It’s not unheard of for members of the public to get their hands on” a police radio, he said, although he said it’s rare. It could be an old, discarded radio or one bought online and tuned to the police frequencies.

There’s no way for the police to trace the location of the radio.

“The transmission was short and quick,” Gould said. “It was clear, so we know it was within a set distance from where the officer was when he heard it.”


Police radios can run on two systems: straight analog, conventional systems or digital systems, according to John Richards, director of radio operations for the Maine Office of Information Technology.

Most public safety systems in Maine — about 90 percent — use the conventional system, which is slightly more vulnerable to penetration, Richards said.

But either way, Richards said, “if the people have the money to spend on the equipment, they can get into just about anything.”

Anyone could purchase a regular radio on Amazon and then program it to tap into the police frequencies, he said.

“If a person knows what they’re doing and they’ve got the numbers, it’s not difficult to spoof,” he said, though finding out the numbers is the difficult part.

Still, this situation doesn’t happen often. This is the second instance in recent memory, Richards said.


There’s no prevention policy for these penetrations, but he said police responded correctly in this case.

“I know the dispatch center up there,” Richards said. “They are excellent at what they do. Whether they knew it was real or they had any inclinations, they rolled and they went to make sure everyone was safe.”

Authorities asked that anyone with information related to the case email the department at [email protected]

“We would be grateful if anybody had any information, no matter how minor,” Gould said.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour


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