SKOWHEGAN — An ongoing disagreement between law enforcement officials about the hiring of a new school resource officer has come to a conclusion.

The Maine School Administrative District 54 board of directors has decided the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office will staff the school position, instead of having the Skowhegan Police Department fill the role.

The vote Thursday came after months of back and forth between law enforcement officials and district leaders about hiring a second SRO for the district who would have appropriate jurisdiction across the multiple towns with district schools.

Skowhegan Police Chief David Bucknam said ahead of the board’s vote that he would consider pulling an SRO from his department already working in the district if the second SRO came from the Sheriff’s Office. A potential leadership conflict could arise with the two SROs reporting to different agencies, Bucknam said.

Chief David Bucknam of the Skowhegan Police Department Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

“(The sheriff’s) decision needs to be the decision, or my decision needs to be the decision,” Bucknam said. “Leadership 101. One boss.”

But reached Friday morning, following the vote, Bucknam said he was “absolutely open to conversations” and had already suggested some options moving forward to the Sheriff’s Office and the school district.


“The kids are my top priority,” Bucknam said in an interview.

Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster said at Thursday’s meeting that he saw no issue with one district SRO coming from his office and one from Bucknam’s department.

Any concerns about the roles of the two leaders — the sheriff and the chief — would be worked out between the two agencies and district leadership, Lancaster said.

Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster Morning Sentinel file

“A team effort could work,” Lancaster said. “Collaboration between the two agencies would only be helpful and healthy.”

The rift emerged last year when the district set out to hire a second SRO to primarily work in the elementary schools, which are in Skowhegan, Norridgewock and Canaan, according to superintendent Jon Moody. Skowhegan police officers typically only have jurisdiction within town limits, while sheriff’s deputies have county-wide jurisdiction.

The SRO from the Skowhegan Police Department has mainly worked at the high school and middle school, both located in Skowhegan, so jurisdiction has not been an issue so far, Moody said.


To give the new SRO proper authority to work in multiple towns, Somerset District Attorney Maeghan Maloney advised the district that the officer would need to be a sheriff’s deputy, according to Moody.

A lawyer consulting for the school district, however, said there would be no issues with a Skowhegan officer doing the job, even at schools outside Skowhegan, Moody said at the previous board of directors meeting, Jan. 4.

Bucknam, the Skowhegan police chief, recognized the potential jurisdiction issue and offered several proposals to allow one of his officers to take the position. A Skowhegan officer could be deputized by the Sheriff’s Office, granting countywide jurisdiction, he said. Alternatively, the towns of Norridgewock and Canaan could sign a memorandum of understanding with the town of Skowhegan to grant a Skowhegan officer jurisdiction outside of traditional limits.

Bucknam also said he already had trained officers on staff that could fill the position, while Lancaster said that he would need to conduct a hiring search.

In going with the Sheriff’s Office, the board took a gamble that Bucknam would later agree to work with Lancaster’s office. Three directors on the board of 23 voted against assigning the new position to the Sheriff’s Office.

Before voting, several board members questioned why the two respected law enforcement officials appeared incapable of “teamwork.”

“I’m in great hopes that these two men … that they will be able to overcome this and work together as a team,” said Lynda Quinn, the board’s chair. “I have a great deal of faith.”

Cost was not a factor in making the decision, according to Moody, the superintendent. Hiring a sheriff’s deputy would cost the district about $6,000 more per year than a Skowhegan officer, Moody said.

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