By Diana Bowley of the BDN Staff: DEXTER, Maine — Dexter Police Chief Jim Emerson was placed on 90 days’ probation Thursday following an investigation that was sparked by a letter of no confidence signed by the town’s four full-time police officers.
Investigations into allegations filed by the officers were conducted by both Town Manager David Pearson and former Police Chief Bob Schwartz of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association. While those investigations uncovered no malfeasance, they did indicate that Emerson had “some lapses of judgment,” Pearson said Friday.
Emerson has five days to file an appeal with the town.
The Dexter Town Council had been prepared to meet with Emerson in executive session Thursday night to discuss the findings, but Emerson asked that it be conducted in public session.
Emerson said Friday that he asked for the public discussion because he has “nothing to hide.” The letter of no confidence was filed while he was out on medical leave, he noted.
“There were things I could have done better, but I didn’t do anything illegal or wrong,” he said of the allegations.
While Pearson said some of the allegations were “overblown” by the officers, others had some merit. What the investigation uncovered, he said, is that Emerson failed to carry out some of his duties as outlined in his job description. In a 15-page report, Pearson faulted Emerson for not providing effective leadership and maintaining harmonious relationships; for not demonstrating the ability to command the respect of the officers; and for not investigating all cases of alleged or apparent misconduct by department personnel and taking the appropriate disciplinary action.
Pearson said he had contacted Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy, the Maine Attorney General’s Office, and the State Fire Marshal’s Office and none of those officials had a problem with Emerson’s performance.
Not all of the department’s problems center on Emerson, according to Pearson. He said the whole department needs training. The officers did not follow the chain of command in filing grievances and their allegations, he said. Rather than take the issues to their chief as outlined in the town’s personnel policy, they took them to the town manager and a couple of Town Council members, Pearson said.
“There’s got to be a department-wide effort to fix this,” he said.
Emerson has been given a list of corrective actions to take, including participation in a leadership class and a mentoring program. Pearson said he would evaluate Emerson’s progress every 30 days rather than wait until the conclusion of the 90-day period. If Emerson does not fulfill the obligations outlined, he would be subject to termination, he said.
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