Separate incidents of alleged racial bias by two Cumberland police officers are being investigated by an outside police agency in conjunction with the Maine Attorney General’s Office of Investigation.

Krystal D. Williams, a Portland attorney, who is Black, brought the incidents to light in a piece that she wrote for the Maine Bar Journal, a publication of the Maine State Bar Association.

In her article titled, “Why White Privilege Is a Necessary Part of Any Conversation on Racism,” Williams addresses issues of racism in the legal profession. She doesn’t make her encounters with Cumberland police the focus of the article, instead describing interactions with the officers during two traffic stops toward the end of her article. Williams said the incidents are examples of how personal racism can feel.

Cumberland Town Manager William R. Shane said the town became aware of Williams’ article earlier this month. Shane addressed her allegations during Monday night’s meeting of the Town Council. On Tuesday, Shane posted a statement on the town’s Facebook page, confirming that an investigation was underway.

“Immediately, upon learning of the article the Police Chief contacted Attorney Williams, as well as the Maine Attorney General’s Office. These allegations are now being investigated by an outside agency, in coordination with the Attorney General’s Office of Investigations, at the request of the Police Chief and with the full cooperation of the officers involved,” Shane wrote in his statement.

Shane declined to identify the outside agency after being contacted by the Press Herald on Tuesday evening. The officers involved in the alleged incidents of racial bias are not being named and they have not been placed on leave.

“We appreciate that the citizens of Cumberland would like to be made aware of allegations such as this and we will make every effort to do so,” Shane added in his statement. “However, the town is also required by the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Cumberland Police Benevolent Association to follow established procedures with regard to complaints made against officers and is required by Maine law to maintain the confidentiality of personnel matters unless disciplinary action is taken as a result of complaints, charges or accusations of misconduct.”

Shane’s remarks about the traffic stops and the action taken by the town drew criticism from Cumberland resident Christopher Neagle, who questioned the neutrality of an investigation by a second outside police agency.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for any police department to investigate this,” Neagle said during Monday night’s public comment period. He said such an investigation would be biased.

In an email to the Press Herald on Tuesday evening, Williams, an attorney at Bernstein Shur, said she filed a complaint against the officers after speaking with Cumberland police Chief Charles Rumsey. The alleged incidents of racial bias took place during the early part of 2019 and involved two different police officers, according to Williams.

“I am pleased that the town of Cumberland has started an investigation into my experiences. Chief Rumsey has repeatedly assured me the investigation will be independent, thorough and transparent. Until and unless I have reason to believe differently, I choose to believe that will be the case. I also believe that the results of the investigation should determine what next steps may be appropriate,” said Williams, who focuses her law practice on energy, land use and environmental laws.

“The investigation has not concluded yet, and I would not feel comfortable commenting further on an ongoing investigation,” said Williams, who no longer lives in Cumberland. Her father was a police officer.

According to Williams’ letter published in the Maine Bar Journal, a Cumberland police officer stopped her vehicle due to a tail light malfunction. After speaking with her, Williams said the officer followed her home for no apparent reason.

“When I am stopped by a Cumberland police officer because – allegedly – the small light that illuminates my tail light is out on one side – it’s personal,” she wrote. “And when that same officer sees my ACLU and Maine Law tote bags in my back seat and lets me go only to follow me until I reach my house – it’s personal.”

In the second encounter with a different Cumberland police officer, Williams said the officer stopped her while she was driving to the gym for a workout.

“When I am stopped on my way to the gym by a Cumberland police officer, who approaches my car yelling ‘do you have a gun?’ – it’s personal.”


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