HALLOWELL — With two officers planning departures, the city’s Police Department is looking to replace 40% of its full-time staff by the fall.

That comes on the heels of hiring a new chief, Scott MacMaster, who in April succeeded Eric Nason, who retired after three decades with the department.

Sgt. Jordan Gaudet of the Hallowell Police Department cradles Granite, the cat who took up residence at the department last year, in October 2019. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

The last day for Sgt. Jordan Gaudet is Thursday, after which he will be joining the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office.

Officer Ronald Grotton, meanwhile, said he is considering retiring in September.

Despite the turnover, MacMaster said he does not expect lapses in police coverage, although he acknowledged there will a strain on the full-time officers — including himself — while the positions are filled.

The department has five full-time and seven part-time, reserve officers. MacMaster said most of city’s part-time officers have full-time jobs, making it difficult for them to cover certain shifts.

MacMaster, who led small departments in Greenville and Richmond prior to becoming Hallowell’s chief, said he will likely cover some daily patrols, while other officers will work 10- or 12-hour shifts, instead of eight.

“When people call, they’ll get an officer,” MacMaster said. “If anything, it just puts more strain on us, and makes me kind of work … patrol and administration during the day.”

MacMaster said the department is focused on keeping overtime to a minimum. He said the department’s budget is flexible enough that if the department does not spend all of its funding in one area, the money could cover other expenses.

“It’s so hard to predict (the need for overtime),” he said. “Quite frankly, you could have a protest this weekend and blow it right out of the water.”

City Manager Nate Rudy said the city budgeted $18,000 last year for Police Department overtime, but spent $27,000. In the upcoming budget year, the city budgeted $23,000 for overtime. He said he could not predict what the city might spend on overtime during the turnover period.

Rudy said the city has begun interviewing candidates for Gaudet’s position.

Police Chief Scott MacMaster plays with critters in March at his Richmond farm. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

MacMaster said he has been calling applicants as part of an “open-ended” interview process, and the search for Gaudet’s successor could also aid in identifying possible successors to Grotton.

“By having the open-end interviewing, maybe I can get someone ready with anticipation of the full-time opening in September,” MacMaster said, adding Grotton’s successor could work part time until Grotton’s retirement.

MacMaster said he is looking for officers who fit the needs of the community. Specifically, he said he seeks well-rounded officers who understand the importance of community-oriented policing in all issues, including those that are not criminal, such as animal complaints or disputes between neighbors.

“(In) any small town, a huge part of what we’re doing is social work-related,” MacMaster said, adding ideal candidates would have “compassion, empathy and understanding.”

Asked if his search is focusing on candidates who would bring greater diversity to the Police Department, Rudy said city jobs are “equal opportunity” and Hallowell “always hopes to get applicants who also represent minorities.”

MacMaster said increased diversity may be difficult to accomplish given the pool of candidates in Maine, but he wants the Police Department to be a reflection of the city it represents and protects.

“To make a well-rounded Police Department, you look at all of that stuff,” he said. “You have different demographics in your agency itself, so in Hallowell or in Richmond, you’re trying to represent the best you can in the community.”

Rudy said MacMaster will likely bring a recommendation to city officials for their ratification after the interview process. MacMaster said he is overseeing the search process, but other officials, including Rudy or the City Council’s personnel committee, might also be part of the hiring process.

 

NASON IS A RESERVE OFFICER

The Hallowell City Council approved the appointment June 8 of former police Chief Eric Nason as a reserve police officer.

Former Hallowell police Chief Eric Nason, who retired in April, stands outside the police station. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file Buy this Photo

Prior to that appointment, Chief Scott MacMaster said in May that Nason was essentially a consultant who was called in if MacMaster needed assistance with statistics or briefings for city committees.

After being asked why Nason had responded to an early morning call for police assistance, MacMaster said the former chief had worked twice on an on-call basis — from his home — between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.

MacMaster said Nason is earning reserve officer pay — $16.63 per hour, without benefits — to assist MacMaster and cover “emergent calls” so other officers are not overworked.

“It might be that (Nason helps) the guys out for an hour or so,” MacMaster said. “I wouldn’t even say it’s four hours or so. It’s more (to aid) the transition. Because of COVID-19, it wasn’t as fluid as it could be.”

Nason retired as police chief in April after more than 30 years with the department. In March, the Kennebec Journal reported that Nason would work with MacMaster through the transition.

According to the city charter, Rudy said, officers are not required to be appointed by the City Council. Thus, he said there was no conflict in Nason’s serving as a reserve officer before his formal appointment.

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