The case of Capitol Police Chief Russell Gauvin was quietly resolved last week with a Friday afternoon news release and a carefully worded legal agreement. It was resolved much too quietly.

Chief Russell Gauvin, photographed shortly after he was hired as Capitol Police chief in 2006. Photo from Capitol Police Maine Facebook page

Gauvin, who had been engaging in extremist rhetoric on public-facing social media accounts during the volatile period after the 2020 election, has resigned with full retirement benefits plus severance pay.

His social media accounts were reviewed by the state, but the results of the investigation are confidential. As far as the state is concerned, the matter is over.

But the public should not be satisfied with this result. If Gauvin had admitted he’d been wrong and resigned in January, when his social media posts first became public, it would have sent a loud signal to the people of the state about what is acceptable for officials who are supposed to be acting in the public interest.

Four months later, however, Gauvin’s “retirement” with severance and without any admission of wrongdoing by Gauvin or any statement from his bosses about where Maine draws the line leaves too many questions unanswered.

Back in January, the alternative news publication Mainer found that Gauvin had published comments on his Facebook account in which he disparaged the use of face masks to guard against spreading COVID-19 and shared a post that suggested masking is part of a bigger plot to control the public.


In other posts, Gauvin wrote that he had “zero confidence” in the results of the November election in which President Biden defeated Trump and shared a post that referred to the election as “a psychological operation of epic proportions.” These were the same falsehoods that were used to justify the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Gauvin’s activity was in step with the groups that led the uprising. After the election, when the social media platforms Facebook and Twitter purged accounts found to have been spreading conspiratorial disinformation, Gauvin joined the right-wing exodus to the new platform Parler, where those views were welcomed.

It was on Parler where much of the Capitol riot was organized. At least four police officers were among the hundreds of rioters who have been charged with federal crimes for participating in the attack on the Capitol. The FBI has been warning since 2006 that extremist groups have been trying to infiltrate law enforcement agencies.

A public resolution to the Gauvin matter could have answered some questions that his negotiated retirement leaves open. Such as:

• Does Maine have anti-government extremists serving in law enforcement?

• What is the state’s policy regarding police officers who advocate extremist views, and how well is it understood by officers?

• Did Gauvin communicate with other officers through social media, and are their accounts also being reviewed?

Gauvin has the right to think and say whatever he believes, but he doesn’t have the right to be a police chief. If he can’t respect the people’s elected government or the laws he is sworn to enforce – including a mask mandate ordered by the governor – it probably was time for him to go.

But the state has bigger problems than a loose-lipped police chief, and they won’t be resolved with an agreement negotiated in secret.

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