FARMINGTON — At the selectmen meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 14, Police Chief Kenneth Charles gave a preparedness update for his department following the Lewiston shootings and had several purchases approved.

Charles said he talked with interim town manager Stephen Eldridge “not at length but following the awful events in Lewiston a couple of weeks ago. I thought it might be a good idea to come address the board, talk about sort of what our planning is, what our process is.”

On Oct. 25 Charles was moose hunting in Fort Kent. “I felt it was important to get back,” he noted. “Luckily we had some success so I was able to break away easier. It was good to get back and start to do some planning for whatever eventuality. If the manhunt extended beyond a couple days, I think the pace of the officers who were responding was probably unsustainable and there may be a need for them to reach out, we would have to provide some resources.”

Thankfully that didn’t come to pass, Charles said. “Nonetheless it kind of reiterated a lot of the issues that I have been planning for,” he noted. “If we are prepared, it mitigates some of the challenges we are actually responding to in an event like that.

“Never would I have thought that it would happen here. You don’t think it’s going to happen anywhere near here and then, boom, it does happen.”

Sharing operational details was something Charles didn’t want to do. Outside experts were brought in to help develop officers’ abilities to respond to an active shooter threat, he said. Training focused on how to enter and clear a building, how to work as a team, and how to use the tools provided, he noted. Also highlighted were gaps in training and equipment, he stated.


“I would like to think that we operate as a department and therefore as a town in a fiscally responsible manner,” Charles said. “I think one of the hardest things you can do is ask for money for something that you hope will never happen. Nonetheless, I started to prioritize the training aspect. We have a healthy training account, that has been helpful. We have been coordinating with other local agencies to begin talking about a larger active shooter training event.”

The Lewiston event highlighted the need, wishful thinking doesn’t get out of the problem, he noted. As a result, Charles made some unplanned purchases. Officers had been equipped with individual first aid kits. Active shooter casualty response kits were recently purchased for each officer.

The kits are kept on the vehicle seat, provide care for the officer, their fellow officers, and involved victims. They cost about $6,700.

“I hope we never have to use them,” Charles stated.

All officers have basic carbine rifles, he noted. “When the shooter left both events, he ends up unknown at night. I felt it was important to provide illumination opportunities for the officers,” Charles said. He found deals on weapon-mounted lights.

Monday evening, firearms instructor Ryan Rosie put officers through several hours of low light/no light training at the transfer station, Charles said. “It went very well, spoke to the ability of our officers with their assigned weapons,” he noted. “I want to make sure that the officers have the equipment they need to take care of themselves. If they take care of themselves, they can help take care of the community.”


Selectman Joshua Bell asked if Charles had coordinated with the hospital, University of Maine at Farmington and the schools.

It has been a long time since holding an active shooting training, one last summer at the high school wasn’t possible but reception for it is good, Charles said. There is a pretty good connection at the hospital, especially through the ambulance service, he stated.

“As we plan for the larger, more regional response, that will include the fire department – perhaps public works as a support to help manage traffic,” he noted. “These are things we kind of had in the works.”

The schools have a resource officer, Matt Brann who is an Avoid, Deny, Defend program instructor, Charles said. Brann trains school staff, works with the kids and helps local businesses and other facilities, he stated.

Selectman Dennis O’Neil compared training costs to prepare for something that may never happen to purchasing insurance coverage. “I have no problems buying insurance in terms of training,” he said.

Selectman Stephan Bunker thought ongoing lessons learned from the Lewiston event might be shared by the Maine Chiefs of Police Association.


At an association conference last week that topic came up, Charles said. “Unfortunately because of the nature of the incident, it’s probably going to be outside of the normal, what we do here at the state,” he noted. “It’s going to be federal.”

Things that were missed, that could have been done better could lead to significant changes in how police business is done globally, Charles noted.

In other business, selectmen approved several police department expenditures, including one that was last minute.

Word was received Tuesday the department was awarded $3,368 through the federal Byrne/Justice Assistance Grant program. Charles requested acceptance towards the purchase of a ballistic shield. The shield costs $3,745 with shipping, according to information he provided.

“We haven’t upgraded our shields,” Charles said. “It’s only one but it comes to us with very minimal cost.” The current budget could pick up the difference, he stated.

A $21,410 Homeland Security grant through Franklin County Emergency Management Agency was accepted to purchase a fingerprinting machine. The table top version is more efficient, less messy, and is similar to what the jail uses, Charles stated. Wilton police will also use the machine, he noted.


“It immediately uploads fingerprints as we scan them for criminal cases,” he noted. “Every time someone is charged with a criminal offense they are required to submit fingerprints. Not all departments are as effective [as Farmington], don’t always get their fingerprints turned in so it is difficult for them.”

Fingerprints are compared with those from stolen phones, other instances to help solve cases, Charles explained. They are also used to potentially disqualify a person from possessing firearms, he said.

Everyone issued a summons must be fingerprinted, Charles noted. Arrested individuals – about a tenth of all summons – have theirs taken at the jail while others have three to five business days to comply, he stated.

First year maintenance is included in the cost, thereafter Wilton will split the cost, Charles said.

Also approved was an expenditure of $8,502 from the Police Department Vehicle Reserve Account towards the purchase of a used 2019 Ford Explorer Interceptor. The vehicle from Hight Ford in Skowhegan will replace one that was totaled earlier this year. The used vehicle has 27,000 miles.

“Where could that have come from with that low a mileage,” Bunker asked.

A university in Massachusetts leased it, Charles answered. “We were able to inspect it, took it for a drive, were very impressed with the condition it’s in,” he said. The totaled vehicle was a 2017 with almost 110,000 miles, insurance has already paid the department $15,498, he noted.

Finally, selectmen approved reimbursing Lewiston Police Department $24,360 for training officer Ariana Bacon received at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy while an officer with Lewiston.

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