10/17/2020 The Franklin County Sheriff's Office / Detention Center has a problem with employee retention.
As a police officer there is nothing more important than the truth, regardless of how that truth may impact you personally. One of the most thrown around words in law enforcement is “Integrity.” Every police officer can give you the rote definition taught in police academy which generally is reiterated as “Doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” This Sheriff, this Sheriff’s Administration and the individual Deputies and Corrections Officers who work at Franklin County are continually held to the highest standards of personal integrity; not only by the leadership but also one another.
Telling the truth can never be more important than when relaying information to the public as the public depends on the honesty and “integrity” of the police to make informed decisions. This Sheriff and the Administration have worked diligently to provide the public with accurate information from the day I was sworn into office. That goes from the daily reports, to the press releases, to the responses to requests for information and the information provided in this re-election campaign.
We live in an age where the amount of information, both good and bad, true, and untrue, goads for our attention. This seems especially true when candidates are running for public office. We see candidates vying for your votes by presenting information as truth. Sometimes it is, sometimes it is not. Sometimes it is opinion and not facts. Candidates for office, especially candidates running for elected police positions, like Sheriff, should never knowingly or intentionally mislead the public with faulty, incorrect or opinionated information or portray information to be factual when the research has not been done to investigate the facts. Every police officer learns early in their career that when we investigate a crime, we must not become emotionally involved in the case and we must look at all the facts, from both sides (i.e. the victim and the alleged perpetrator). We must collect the information and then present that information as a case to be prosecuted or not. It would be remarkable if candidates running for office would follow that same notion.
In this Sheriff’s election we have found ourselves inundated with misinformation often veiled as the sharing of an opinion. Everyone has a right to their opinion, but public officials and those seeking public office should ensure that their “opinion” is based in facts. In the past couple of months, we have seen that just has not been the case. Whether a candidate is simply careless in presenting information or if they are intentionally maligning information to create doubt and fear it shows their willingness to do and say anything to portray themselves as a viable candidate.
This Administration is doing all we can to correct the misinformation being spread. There are days it seems we are entrenched in the Battle of the Somme, blood and mud being slung violently, with no concern for anything, certainly no concern for truth. If a candidate cannot be trusted to be honest in the information they are providing to the public during an election, how can anyone trust them to provide accurate and truthful information after they are elected and in power?
Here is accurate and factual information.
I would like to address the issue of hiring and retention for deputies and corrections officers. In the past 8 years we have seen deputies leave our Sheriff’s Office and have had to hire people to replace them. This is not unique to this agency but has been a national trend in law enforcement over the past decade or more. We have been truly fortunate in that we have become a place where good officers want to work. Over the past several years when we have had openings, we have received a significant number of applicants and been able to choose from among some great candidates. In speaking with local Police Departments who have also faced the same staffing challenges, we were surprised to find that some of the local departments have had continual openings for several years and were only getting a trickle of applicants where they would not even wait for several people to apply, but would interview candidates that seemed to offer promise as those applications came in. During that same time, the Sheriff’s Office would typically receive between six and twenty applications each time we advertised an open patrol deputy position.
Some have insinuated that this challenge is specific to Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and that there must be something wrong with our agency causing people to leave. The truth is, hiring and retention of law enforcement officers is a national crisis. In 1983 when I first applied to the Maine State Police, there were 24 positions available and there were several thousand applicants. Today, many, many agencies have perpetual openings and few applicants. My how things have changed.
One thing that sets apart those who have chosen to leave Franklin County employment versus other municipal police agencies in Western Maine is all but two deputies in the past eight years, have left law enforcement entirely. The majority of those who left these municipal departments went to work for other police agencies. Some of those that left our agency had disciplinary issues and chose to leave rather than comply with the high standards we hold all our employees to. I do not imply that all of those who have left had disciplinary issues, many were great employees who just chose to no longer work in law enforcement. This is a tough job and can wear on your soul. We currently have two conditional offers out to phenomenal applicants, people who do not live in Franklin County, but want to come work specifically at this agency. One has 15 years of experience and the other has 20. Both have extensive experience and qualifications rarely seen. If there were problems in our agency, why would people like this be seeking us out? Neither candidate has applied anywhere else, only here.
While many people are aware of this hiring and retention problem in Law Enforcement, the fact that this same problem effects Correctional Facilities is largely overlooked. It may seem that smaller facilities like the Franklin County Detention Center would be immune from such issues, but the fact is that it has more of an effect on our facility as we have a much smaller staff than larger institutions. Losing even one person has a serious effect on morale and the operations of the facility for the remaining employees as they fill those vacant hours, working more hours and experiencing more stress.
Turnover of Corrections Officers is a fact of life. The younger generation tends to be more mobile and less apt to work their entire career at one job or type of work. This is not just true in Law Enforcement and Corrections, but in all types of careers. Most young people today change jobs or careers far more frequently than their parents. Here is a link to a gallop pole article that talks about this issue: …/millennials-job-hopping-generation…
Often the realities and stress of the job cause Corrections Officers to burn out and they choose to move on. As Officers age, many seek employment with a lower likelihood of physical conflicts and injury. While the pay and benefits package at Franklin County Jail are competitive, over time some Officers decide that there are easier and more lucrative ways to make a living. This is true in all Correctional Facilities.
Covid-19 adds another facet to this. My administration has made great and continuing efforts to prevent a Covid outbreak within the jail and protect Correctional, medical, and support staff. However, some Officers and support staff felt the risk to themselves and their families was too great and chose to move on. Again, this is not unique to Corrections, and we see a nationwide reshuffling of the work force as people find ways to work from home or in safer environments. Covid-19 has in a few instances worked to our advantage. As some other local businesses have had to reduce staffing or lay people off it has given us a chance to hire hard working, mature and experienced people from other fields. It has been my direct experience that the best Corrections Officers come from other fields. These people have never considered Corrections as an option and had no idea that the job would suit them when they started, but they find that their skillset is well suited to the job.
Over the last several years, our goal has been to retain three to five part time corrections employees. Without exception, when we hire a group of part-time officers, they have the option of full-time employment by the time they attain academy certification, and sometimes even before that. The process to attain that certification could be another whole lengthy discussion. At least twice in the past year we have hired well-qualified applicants that decided that Corrections is not for them, or they have been talked out of it by a family member. Retaining Corrections Officers is not as simple as some would want you to think. Employee retention is not always about making employees comfortable or fixing their working conditions.
Overall, our retention of long-term employees is above average. We have several officers with more than a decade with our facility and their institutional knowledge is invaluable. Occasionally someone decides to move on as their life situation changes. Again, this is not unique to Corrections. While it is not common, we have had a few Corrections officers actually RETIRE from the Franklin County Detention Center. This is a significant accomplishment as a Corrections Officers 58th birthday is statistically their LAST. The same is true nationally with Police Officers whose life expectancy is 59 years.
In that regard, we have been advocating that Officers plan their time off as carefully as their careers, maintain healthy relationships on the outside, look after their physical and mental health, and seek to relieve stress regularly.
So, while some want to believe that losing employees with five or ten years of experience is a signal of problems within the agency, the truth is that it is much more complex than they understand. We encourage you to continue to seek the truth and this Sheriff’s Administration will always provide you with accurate and factual information. Please share the truth with your friends, family and neighbors.
Vote November 3.
As always, I am available at any time to chat or answer your questions.
Sheriff Nichols ‘Of the People, For the People’ #ReElectSheriffNicholsMaine2020 #PreferredSheriff #ThePeoplesSheriff
10/16/2020 The Sheriff's Office is not handling personnel complaints properly.
Here are the FACTS:
There has been some criticism generated online about the Sheriff’s Office handling of personnel complaints. Rest assured, all personnel complaints are taken seriously and investigated to the fullest. Should any type of alleged criminal misconduct arise, that case is immediately turned over to and investigated by other law enforcement agencies.
This does two things: It ensures fairness to all parties involved and removes any perception of bias.
10/16/2020 Your Sheriff is using taxpayer funded equipment for outside employment and receiving pay for it.
Here are the Facts:
For the past five years, myself and my Chief Deputy have been providing Basic Handgun Safety Courses to the public as part of the Community Outreach Programs I started implementing in 2013. We hold these classes at the Wilton Fish and Game or occasionally in Carrabassett. Both ranges charge a minimal fee that goes to the host range itself for maintenance, upkeep etc. The fee to have myself and my Chief Deputy teach these classes is zero.
Yes – zero.
We do this on weekends – year-round (minus the summer months). We do not receive any pay or fees collected by the host range. We do this because we believe in the program and the value it brings to you, the citizens of Franklin County. We have put through hundreds of students in these classes over the last several years. It is rewarding to see the self confidence that people leave with.
10/16/2020 The same letter to the editor in the Irregular this week, also stated that we have increased the burden to county taxpayers by $100,000 to add an additional patrol position.
Before we take another deep dive into the weeds …. I would like to preface this session of class time with the following:
First – I appreciate the county wide support of me in my re-election bid – thank you!!!
Second – I have seen some awful comments floating around on social media, attacking both candidates and now my family.
That is not who I am.
That is not who we are.
There are good people on both sides, friends under normal circumstances. I wish that to continue. I would ask everyone to dial back the rhetoric, to rise above it. Let us focus on the momentum we have and re-election day November 3.
I believe the public deserves to know the whole truth and not just opinions. As Sheriff, I maintain personal expectations of myself to always be open, honest, and transparent. I have no intention of changing that now.
So – back to ‘Class time’! …. We will be covering a few different topics here …
We hope you’re learning a lot from these ‘Class Times’ about how your County government works ….
Here are the FACTS:
A cursory glance at the 2021 budget will confirm this is not true. We have not added to the budget.
For the past several years, we have applied to the state to allow us to utilize Unorganized Territories funding to help us pay for an additional (tenth) patrol position. Our original request included funding to help with Animal Control, as well – but it was denied. We kept at it… UT money is money collected from taxpayers who live in the UT’s but goes directly to the State of Maine. The State of Maine turns around and awards a small portion of that back to the County in which it was collected to fund fire protection, roads and in some cases, public safety such as law enforcement. We got this idea by watching our sister county (Somerset) who successfully augmented their force by one position with a Deputy dedicated to the Unorganized Territories.
In 2019 - we applied again when we noticed an increase in the number of calls to the UT’s requiring law enforcement response. Our request was finally approved in the spring of 2020 with approval from the person in charge of the State UT budget, approval by the State Legislature and County Commissioners and then put into place. This funding will cover the position and equipment – without adding to the patrol budget funded by non-UT county taxpayers.
This year, because of the pandemic, we have seen folks from other areas move to the UT’s and stay. We have once again seen an increase in calls this year over previous years. Once we are able to fill this tenth position, we will be able to modify our current patrol schedule to provide more consistent coverage to not only the folks who live in the UT’s, but to the entire Franklin County coverage area – all without additional cost to the patrol budget.
As a side note, this information was discussed publicly at the Commissioners meeting December 17, 2019 – the article is still on the Daily Bulldog - and has been available on our campaign website for several weeks. A simple look at online news, a phone call to my office or to the County Commissioners could have answered this question quickly without the need to put more misperceptions out to you, the people we serve.
10/14/2020 A letter to the editor questions the FCSO’s K9 program, alleges employees are utilizing your tax dollars to benefit their own business(es) and basically is a sham - so we had someone ‘in the know’ provide the facts and here’s what we found:
You all are definitely getting an in-depth look at County government throughout this campaign – your Sheriff’s Office continues to remain open, honest and transparent. Remember, ‘Of the People, For the People’.
This is long – but is a quick read from Lt. Rackliffe - and super informative …
Here are the FACTS:
Where to start?
I guess with how easy it is to draw assumptions that are without merit and not supported by facts. There seems to be a lot of that being thrown about over the past few months.
So, here we go……...
Yes, I, David Rackliffe, own a business, Von Woden Kennels, where I breed German Shepherd Dogs. By Sheriff’s Office policy, that is considered outside employment and must be approved by the Sheriff. That employment was first approved under Sheriff Dennis Pike in 2008 and continued under Sheriff Scott Nichols after he took office in 2013. Have I sold products and services to Franklin County? Yes. Under Sheriff Dennis Pike, and with the approval of the County Commissioners, I provided boarding for County K9’s while handlers were away on vacations. I also have provided Police Dog Boarding for Maine State Police, Somerset County Sheriff’s Office and Oxford County Sheriff’s Office as well as the United States Border Patrol. I have specialized training in handling police K9’s and my kennel facility was built specifically to ensure I can safely house police K9’s. (You should see the list of requirements that the Federal Government has to board their dogs). I have however, never charged any boarding fees for kenneling my own police K9, even when I went on vacation and hired someone to come take care of my dogs, I absorbed all that cost. In fact, I frequently absorb costs for my police K9’s that the County should be paying for, as do many handlers. For clarification, I have also been paid boarding fees by Franklin County since Sheriff Nichols took office, but that is a rare event, and has always been done only when other handlers were on vacation and not able to care for their own dog, and approved by the County Commissioners.
Since there is a tendency for some to tell a little bit of truth with a bunch of lies, let’s keep going so we can shed some more light into the darkness.
ALL financial expenditures for the Sheriff’s Office (and any other county agency) must be approved by the County Commissioners. Sheriff Dennis Pike, Sheriff Scott Nichols and I as well as the rest of the Sheriff’s Office Administration have always ensured that the Commissioners were aware they were buying services and products from an employee. I have given them some really good deals. Keep reading.
Whew, that was tough, so much truth, I feel better already. Let’s keep going. Under Sheriff Dennis Pike I purchased my very first Police K9 out of my pocket at a cost of $4500. After about 3 years, I was reimbursed for most of that cost by the County. Next, under Sheriff Dennis Pike I donated a German Shepherd Dog to Franklin County with the permission of the County Commissioners for another handler. Donated means I gave the dog to the County for FREE in case anyone is unclear on that. Not a great way to make money for a business. About a year later, I SOLD a German Shepherd Dog to Franklin County, while I was employed under Sheriff Dennis Pike, with the consent of the County Commissioners. I sold that dog for $3000. I paid almost $2000 with shipping costs. That dog was imported from Belgium. Can anyone tell me what it costs to feed a dog for a year with a quality food? How about $500? That’s about right. Can anyone tell me what it costs for vet expenses, heartworm medication, flea, and tick medications for a year? How about $500? Yeah, that’s about right, so I sold the dog for about what I had invested in him. Again, not a great way for a business to make money, selling your product at cost. Maybe I am not so good at this business stuff……
This past year, that dog, Justice passed away. Oh, and by the way, since I was previously accused by one of Eddie’s staunch supporters of stealing from the County by using that dog for breeding purposes, the contract I had with the County included a condition that I had all and exclusive breeding rights to Justice. Out of one of the last litters that Justice produced, I kept a special dog, he was very rebellious. This past year, I donated that dog to Franklin County, and he is currently my partner and police K9. Oh, I paid almost $2000 out of my pocket to attend specialized training with this dog over his first year of life, before I donated him, again, that means FREE. His name is Rebel. Also, for the first year plus of his life, I paid for all his vet expenses and food. I am thinking I may be really bad at this business stuff. That would be called “selling at a loss.” That is definitely not a good way to make money.
So, in addition to donating two dogs and selling one at cost to the County that I serve, I have sold dogs to Maine State Police, South Berwick Police, Oxford County Sheriff’s Office and Knox County Sheriff’s Office. I also have a dog working for a Police Department in Massachusetts and two that were deployed to the Middle East to protect our troops. There is also a dog from my kennel that is the first German Shepherd Dog to ever win the civilian dog sport competition, Iron Will, held annually in South Carolina. That competition is almost always won by a Malinois. Can you see my pride? It should be glowing right now. Should we continue dispelling the mistruths? Are you tired of reading yet? Should I do this as a video? I could probably be entertaining. Maybe not.
Let us continue with All Points Maine Police Canines. Every organization that is not a business and wants to have a bank account must file paperwork with the State, usually as a not for profit. That is what All Points is. We modeled this after another K9 training group in Maine who also train dogs and handlers for municipal and county agencies from across the state. Yes, I serve on the board of that not for profit, as does a K9 handler from Norway Police Department and a Deputy from Washington County Sheriff’s Office. Someone had to do the paperwork to create the not for profit, and that turned out to be me. So, yes, my signature is on the incorporation petition to the State.
We have police departments from across Maine that were seeking an alternative to the K9 training offered at the Maine State Police Canine Training Group. Not that there is anything wrong with their training, but not all gloves fit every hand. Just ask OJ. Franklin County was in a unique position to start a new K9 training group since we had a K9 Trainer and an Assistant Trainer, both of which were accomplishments achieved under Sheriff Dennis Pike. That Dennis, he sure is a nice guy. He always supported the K9 program because he knew how valuable the dog teams are. Six years ago, we jumped off and started our own K9 program with just Franklin County’s three K9 teams and Somerset County’s team. Over the past few years, we have added teams from Oxford County (K9 team no longer active), Norway Police Department, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Rumford Police Department, Knox County Sheriff’s Office and Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office, as well as Pleasant Point Police Department. Do you know where Pleasant Point is? Can you find it on the map? Yeah, it is waaaaaaaaaaaaay over there………
This training group was initiated to create a network of K9 trainers and teams from across the state that could train in various locations yet have one “organization”. We have achieved that as we have a trainer with Washington County who routinely holds training from Bangor to Machias. There is also an adjunct K9 trainer with about 100 years of experience (ok, really about 40) who is a retired Game Warden who works with the teams over that way as well. We also have a retired K9 Trainer from South Portland Police Department who provides training opportunities for us by traveling here to Franklin County as well as over in Oxford County from time to time, at no cost, on his own time and at his own expense. He has been training K9s for over 25 years. So, despite the accusations that All Points is an organization designed to perpetuate my business, it is actually a group of likeminded people who want to provide the best K9 training we can. Part of that is to ensure that the training is not dependent on any particular person, whether that be the sheriff from any county or any single person, including me. This group was designed as a not for profit to be perpetual, beyond my retirement, beyond Sheriff Nichols’ terms of service. We are still working to ensure that longevity.
I just gotta keep going. Can you keep reading? There is more truth to be told.
The K9 maintenance training we do is normally scheduled once each week, mostly in Franklin County, but occasionally outside of our county. Maintenance training is the weekly training that is required to maintain the K9 team’s proficiency and to continue to develop the team after initial certification. The national standard is one eight-hour day per week. When our K9 teams attend training, as much as possible, it is scheduled for when they are already working, or hours are swapped, thus reducing overtime paid for training. This is an option that would not be available if we trained with another group, as we would be at their mercy of when they chose to schedule training. Our K9 handlers are also available to assist with calls while we are training in Franklin County, regardless of whether the dog is needed or not, again helping to maintain the great law enforcement services the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office provides to our community. We have even had situations develop while we were doing K9 training where other police K9 teams from outside of Franklin County went to assist in those situations, providing additional manpower that would not have been available otherwise, making it safer for everyone.
The time Franklin County’s K9 trainers spend training all those teams is no greater than the time that would be required to only train our own teams and to maintain our trainer certifications. This training group has also formed a state-wide information sharing network between the handlers. Believe it or not, those involved in criminal activity do not always stay within the borders of one county. Our K9 handlers have helped one another solve crimes across the state. We even saved Franklin County taxpayers from having to transport a person arrested in Franklin County to Washington County. Franklin County Deputies arrested a man on warrants out of Washington County during one of our K9 training days. The Deputy in attendance from Washington County transported that person at the end of the K9 training day to the jail in Washington County, thus saving the Franklin County taxpayers from having to send our jail transport officer on that trip (about 8 hours round trip) as well as the cost for feeding and housing that person while waiting to be transported.
Let’s talk some more about costs, as it has been said that it would be cheaper for the taxpayers to send our County K9 teams to the training program held at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy (MCJA) in Vassalboro. The training program conducted through All Points Maine Police Canines is an approved K9 training program through the MCJA and the cost is exactly the same. The MCJA bills all agencies for certification, not for training. This year, we also started certifying our K9 teams through the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA), a national certification organization. It is becoming more of a national trend to have more than one organization certify K9 teams. The USPCA does not have a minimum hours requirement for certification as the MCJA does. The USPCA is a competency-based certification. Because of this, we were able to certify and begin deploying K9 teams much sooner, giving the taxpayers more for their dollar. Once those K9 teams have the additional hours of training required by the MCJA, a second certification is done under the MCJA. Additionally, since most all the training is done here in Franklin County, there is no travel or meal costs for the taxpayer as there would be to attend the MCJA program.
County policy states that employees traveling outside of the county for training must be paid for their meals. That could definitely add up. Now calculate daily trips from Farmington to Vassalboro and back, Monday through Friday, every day, for 8 to10 weeks for a single purpose drug team and an additional 14 weeks for a dual certified drug and patrol team. That is a lot of gas, wear and tear on a vehicle and officer time to be paid for, most of which is saved by training locally. Why would a local Police Department pay all that extra cost? Then, there is all the mandatory maintenance training, a minimum of two days per month for single purpose teams, would also require that same travel costs, every month for the service-life of the K9 team. Not all training through that program is held in Vassalboro, there are times when teams would have to travel to Bangor, Augusta, Lewiston, South Portland, and other places in the state to attend training. We do acknowledge that for most of the K9 teams that come here to train, it would be cheaper for them to train elsewhere, yet they come here anyway. That should say something to every person about the quality of training, as well as the training model that we have developed.
Manpower is also greatly affected by sending an officer and a K9 to training. Pulling an officer off from the road for 8, 10 or 14 weeks to attend a school has extensive costs. Our training model for initial “schools” prior to certification require only one or two days per week on average. This allows the K9 officer to continue working most of their scheduled shifts and reduces the requirement for agencies to either be an officer short or incur more overtime to fill that officer’s shifts while they are at training. By spreading out the training days to only one or two days per week, rather than five days a week for months on end, it allows for better planning for staffing and reduced overtime, thus providing better service at a lower cost to the taxpayer. We need to remember that it is the citizens, visitors, and taxpayers that we serve, not ourselves. We must always focus on doing what best serves those we have committed to serving. There are other benefits to our training model as well, like increased time between training days that the handler can work independently with their dog and reduced stress on the dog. But that is another topic entirely.
So, we have talked about the cost of the program, what are the benefits? So, I will start by answering that with a question: What is the value of a life? All our K9’s are trained to find people. Our K9’s are primarily a locating tool. Whether being used to find a child who wandered off from home, an elderly person who took a walk in the woods and cannot remember how to get home or criminals fleeing from a crime scene. Our dogs are trained to track them and locate them. Just a few months ago, Sergeant Nathan Bean and K9 Bain tracked an elderly person who had walked away from their home, became confused and could not be located by family. The K9 team quickly located the person and with the help from other law enforcement, fire and EMS, the person was safely returned to their home. There have been numerous such incidents carried out by our K9 Teams. Just over a year ago, one of our K9 teams tracked a suicidal person and found them moments away from death. Because of the rapid availability of the K9, the excellent training and the quick actions of the officers involved, that person’s life was saved. A few years ago, there was a situation where K9 Justice and I located an older man who had wandered away from home and gotten tangled up in vines and fences. He was unable to yell for help and despite numerous people searching for him, he could not be found until the K9 Team located him. Our teams have found many lost children and adults, always returning them safely to their families. So, what is the value of a life?
As a locating tool, the K9 Teams are also trained to locate items with human scent. Our teams have discovered things like expended bullet casings at crime scenes, discarded jewelry on a track from a burglary, safes and suitcases with valuable documents that were thrown into thick woods and bushes that were searched unsuccessfully for hours by police, but quickly found by the K9 Teams. Just this past summer we have had K9 Teams who twice found items that were discarded from a burglary that would have gone unrecovered without the K9. Sometimes the value in that is recovering a family heirloom, or perhaps something that has some evidentiary value to the identity of the suspect. Often those things would never be found without the K9.
The K9 Teams are also trained to find illegal drugs. One case a few years ago, it was the K9 Team that discovered the drug evidence that was important in proving the case. Officers had searched extensively for the drugs they knew had to be there and had come up empty handed. Once again, K9 Justice could smell what no one could see. The drugs were found, and a conviction was had.
The effect of our training group extends far beyond our little county. The K9 Teams that train here have had great success, whether in Knox County where two young children were found by the K9 Team a few months ago, or Somerset, Kennebec and Oxford counties where huge drug seizures have been had already this year. Those seizures have taken enormous amounts of potentially fatal narcotics off from the streets and kept them out of the hands of young people and children, likely preventing numerous drug overdoses, and quite likely a few deaths. So, one final time; what is the value of a life?
Being a K9 Handler and a K9 Trainer has been one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done. One of the most frequently asked questions in an interview for a police officer position is, “Why do you want to be a police officer.” The most common answer is, “Because I want to help people.” As a K9 Handler we frequently have the opportunity to do just that. Bringing people home safely, keeping drugs out of the hands of children and returning lost valuables is just a part of what we do, but it is some of the most satisfying things you could ever hope to accomplish.
And there you have it, nothing but the truth and the facts. We hope you enjoyed this and learned a lot about the K9 program through the FCSO – these dogs and their handlers are some of the best around – all ready to serve you.
As always, I am available at any time to answer questions - I look forward to hearing from you!
Please share the truth with your friends, family and neighbors.
~Sheriff Nichols 'Of the People, For the People'. #PreferredSheriff Register. Vote Nov. 3
We had a question this week that we couldn't answer! So, we went to those who know ....
Question: I got my absentee ballot this week to vote and noticed that the opposition has the words "Preferred Candidate - Independent" under their name. What does that mean and why / or how did they become a 'preferred candidate'?
Here are the FACTS:
So - here's what we found out:
Under Title 21, 354(1) - Unenrolled candidates (there is no longer an Independent party in Maine), individuals are allowed to add up to 3 words for their political designation (this also goes on their ballot listing.) Many choose something like 'Conservative Independent', 'Independent for Maine', 'Independent', '(Insert Town) Independent', 'Unenrolled' etc.).
The other candidate listed on your ballots chose to put "Preferred Candidate - Independent"
Let's break this down.
Preferred Candidate is a political designation the individual candidate has given himself. He is not endorsed or preferred by the Secretary of State's Office who oversees the ballots/ballot process.
Independent - again, there is no Independent party in Maine - only Unenrolled.
So, don't let yourselves or your family and friends be fooled by those three little words the opposition has chosen to add to your ballots in order to make you think they are somehow preferred. They are preferred only by themselves.
Please share this information so that others in our County will be informed and then contact your local Representatives and Senator to have this law changed to put some parameters in place or to remove completely.
Register. Vote. #PreferredSheriff #ReElectSheriffNicholsMaine2020 Share, Share, Share and Share Again ....
MYTH: An article appeared in the Daily Bulldog this week that said you are basically fiscally irresponsible with a 30+% budget increase from 2012 to current. I am shocked to see this type of increase, can you explain?
Here are the FACTS:
As always, we did some digging (actually locating the budget files - but we did dig 😉 ) .... here's what we found:
Sitting down and pulling up the correct information – see below – a 36% increase is correct on the jail, but once you dig into it to see why – it is not due to a lack of fiscal responsibility on the part of your Sheriff.
Sheriff Nichols presented his first jail budget to the County Commissioners and Budget Committee for 2014. The 2014 budget was frozen at 2008 levels, when the jail was transitioned into a 72-hour holding facility by the Pike administration (this meant several local residents lost their jobs and inmates were transferred to Somerset County).
This also meant the County was still being taxed at the $1.65 million, but the County could only keep $1 million of that and the other $650,000 was sent to the Board of Corrections to distribute to other jails (!!) in the state.
Sheriff Nichols was elected in 2012, took office January 2013 and Fiscal Year 2014 was his first budget at the frozen level.
Franklin County Patrol in 2014 = 1,550,000.00
Franklin County Patrol in 2021 = 1,820,000.00
Difference: $270,000 or 15%
Jail in 2014 = $1,650,000 (frozen as 72-hour facility)
Jail in 2021 = $2,226,000.00
Difference: $576,000 or 36%*
*Keeping in mind after the jail was opened back up in early 2015:
-We now had to comply with State Department of Corrections Standards in order to obtain a license to re-open as a full time facility
-Manpower was doubled, but not brought back to the level prior to 2008. We could not afford to do this, so we met the minimum for safety with no excess.
-The building itself required internal renovations to comply with newer Department of Corrections standards.
-Training requirements for new employees to include uniforms, equipment, updated computers, updated software to properly manage inmate information
Why would we open the jail back up and not just continue to send inmates to Somerset?
The reason is: The Board of Corrections ceased to exist and they asked us if we were prepared to re-open our jail or to send inmates to another facility for $100 per day, per inmate.
That adds up quickly!
Having inmates in other facilities puts a hardship on them, their families, their legal counsel etc.
The cost to transport, provide medical, mental health etc. would still be the responsibility of the Franklin County taxpayer.
So, here's the benefit of having a full-time facility:
Besides having inmates housed locally, we are also boarding out inmates from other jail facilities due to their overcrowding which generates revenue on a daily basis to help offset the budget gap that we face every year.
We have also been able to bring back jobs to Franklin County.
It is important to know the truth and not simply what the opposition chooses to share (half-truths).
Keep in mind, all budgets are not made in a vacuum. They go through an extensive review by the County Commissioners, as well as the County Budget Committee - which takes several months. At the end of that negotiation process, all agree on a budget.
As always, I am available at any time to answer questions - I look forward to hearing from you!
Please share the truth with your friends, family and neighbors.
~Sheriff Nichols 'Of the People, For the People'. #PreferredSheriff Register. Vote Nov. 3
MYTH: Current practices at the Franklin County Jail allow for immediate family members of the Sheriff to work there.
Here are the FACTS:
The Franklin County Detention Center has had a nepotism policy in place for several years, put in place by the County Commissioners. The Sheriff and/or Jail Administrator do not hire employees, they make recommendations to the County Commissioners who then determine the outcome. The policy reads as follows:
NEPOTISM: No immediate family member of any Department Head or Elected Official may be gainfully employed to work in his/her department. Immediate family member is defined as son, daughter, spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandchild, grandparent, brother, sister, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, mother-in-law, father-in-law, half- or step-brother, half- or step- sister; or the spouses to any of them, and foster children. All relationships include those arising from adoption. Grandfathered employees (employees hired before enactment of this provision) shall not be promoted or transferred to a position where they are responsible for the supervision of an immediate family member.
The Franklin County Detention Center employs one person who reports directly to the Sheriff, which is the Jail Administrator. Following the chain of command, Corrections Officers report to Sargeants; administrative employees report to the Lieutenant; Kitchen staff report to the Lieutenant. From the Lieutenant, the chain of command then goes to the Major (Jail Administrator).
Conclusion: Your Sheriff has no immediate family members employed in any capacity by the Franklin County Detention Center that report directly to the elected position of Sheriff - as County policy forbids it. To go even further, it is common practice for many companies to allow employment of relatives only if they don't work in the same department or are not in a reporting relationship. This would be the same practice the Commissioners have put into place as you will find several relatives who work for the County but are not in the same department or are not in a reporting relationship.
People want new energy, new ideas, people want an outstanding police officer and they don't want a politician.
Here are the FACTS:
"They don't want a politician" is said out of a complete lack of knowledge or understanding of what this elected position entails.
To start out, Sheriffs are not just another one of hundreds of police chiefs in Maine. The 16 Maine Sheriffs are actually constitutional officers who are elected by the people for a four year term. They are the only law enforcement official mentioned in the original and current state constitution (except for the position of constable). The staff that works for a Sheriff are known as Deputy Sheriffs or Deputies. Sheriff’s answer to the people who have elected them. What makes a Sheriff really stand out is their independence.
A Sheriff is not subject to the political whims of a municipal or state body which can lean one way one year or the other way another year on certain political issues that may affect your personal rights due to an election. Sheriffs in Maine, regardless of political party, stay apolitical. All Sheriffs represent the citizens within their county regardless of party affiliation and always are ready to use their influence to defend your constitutional rights. This is especially true when it pertains to the Bill of Rights.
The office requires flexibility to changes around them, ever mindful of personal safety, civil rights and protection of personal property.
A Sheriff has the ability and obligation to testify before the Legislature, if need be, on behalf of the people he / she represents.
They are swayed only by the will of the people they serve.
The FCSO does not encourage or recognize employees for exemplary performance or foster going above and beyond their normal duties.
Here are the FACTS:
The Sheriff's Office recognizes the outstanding work of our valued, hard-working and professional team - both at the Detention Center and Sheriff's Office. Recognition is given through promotions, quarterly awards given out to individuals nominated by their peers, as well as annual recognition for Deputy of the Year and Corrections Officer of the Year.
In addition, the Sheriff's Office also awards the Sheriff’s Medal. This award recognizes exemplary job performance above and beyond the normal course of daily duties. This award highlights the extra work, effort and dedication by any employee (Sheriff's Office, Detention Center) to the mission of the Sheriff’s Office that shines a positive light upon the entire organization.
The FCSO has not engaged in addressing the underlying neighborhood conditions that cultivate crime and drug use.
Here are the FACTS:
The “biggest issue” we deal with in Franklin County is without a doubt the drug abuse issue, specifically opioid addiction. We have seen an increase in calls to respond to medical emergencies because of drug overdoses. Addiction destroys families, kills people and leads to additional crime to help pay for their addictions.
We have some of the best drug investigators in Franklin County. They spend months building a case, but because of their thoroughness they execute results. We will always be on the lookout for the next dealer. We could not be as successful as we have been without the cooperation of the public. We receive information, work the case and hopefully it comes to a positive fruition.
We cannot, however, arrest our way out of the drug epidemic. You have to look hard into treatment, and prevention. With that in mind, the Sheriff’s Office entered into a partnership with the Healthy Community Coalition a couple of years ago. Working with them, the group was able to obtain a grant that will fund programs that focus in areas of prevention, treatment expansion and education. They have developed a Peer Recovery Coach Program and are involved with Narcan distribution. Our Detention Center participates in a medically assisted treatment program for inmates that arrive and are currently on the same program on the outside. We continue with this same level of care until they leave the jail.
Criminal investigations is the spear tip of the Sheriff’s Office. Over the past eight years our investigative unit has evolved into a 21st century criminal investigative unit. You will find our investigators always in the lead when it comes to investigating domestic violence, drugs, and property crime. Using the most modern techniques involving, link analysis, crime scene processing, and cell phone data analysis, they work closely with local law enforcement as well as M.I.A.C. (Maine Information and Analysis Center) to collect, analyze and appropriately share intelligence between the federal, state and local government.
They are always available to assist other agencies as a force multiplier in their particular investigations. All our investigators have attended and continue to attend advanced training that keeps their interview skills and investigative abilities tuned sharp. They are the premier sex crime investigators in Franklin County and are recognized as the experts when dealing with child victims. Their commander, Lt. David St. Laurent, is involved with groups such as Safe Voices, CAC (Children’s Advocacy Center), the Domestic Violence Homicide Review panel, the Children’s Task Force, and the Advisory board for child death.
The FCSO lacks the leadership from someone who has a vision, career longevity, organizational skills and track record in the community to do what is right.
Here are the FACTS:
Leadership. Integrity. Experience. Follow the link below to meet YOUR Sheriff.
As I embark on another term, I am proud to report to you that the promises I made to you in 2012 have been kept.
In 2012, I promised to:
Expand Patrol – Done! proactive patrol without increasing manpower
Return the Jail – Done! I worked hard to bring the jail back to a full time operation
Bring transparency to the Sheriff's Office – Done! with weekly reports/web page listing arrests and releases
Bring in community policing – Done! with programs such as:
Citizens Police Academy
Basic Firearms Safety Courses
Keeping Your Keys Program
Rural School Outreach Programs
All of these programs develop a relationship of trust with (you) the public, that helps us combat crime. We are nothing without the support of YOU, the people of Franklin County. Without you we could not be as successful as we have been over the years in solving crime and keeping our communities safer as a result.
There is a lack of patrol visibility, overall trust and professionalism within FCSO.
Here are the FACTS:
PROACTIVE VS. REACTIVE PATROL
Read about our philosophy and what we're doing by clicking the links below:
CALEA certification will enhance the effectiveness of the Sheriff's Office.
Here are the FACTS:
Q. What is Calea (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc.)? A. An enhanced SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) that was developed by several national organizations to provide an extra layer of defense against civil lawsuits.
Q. Are all law enforcement agencies in Maine accredited? A. No - in fact, less than 5% of law enforcement agencies nationwide are accredited. In Maine, there are 122 law enforcement agencies. Of those - there are 4 accredited Police Departments: Auburn (staff size 62) Biddeford (staff size 75) Lewiston (staff size 94) South Portland (staff size 62)
and one Sheriff's Office accredited: Cumberland County SO (staff size 74)
The Franklin County Sheriff's Office staff size has a total of 16 sworn employees and one civilian employee, which includes command staff.
Q. Is it a good idea to be Calea certified? A. Yes, of course. In an environment of tough budgets, however, the Sheriff's Office relies upon SOP's that are developed by the Maine Chiefs of Police Association specific to Maine and its rural communities.
Q. What is the cost to become certified? A. Accreditation applies only to the Sheriff's Office and is not available for the Corrections side. At the low end for initial accreditation the cost would be around $8,500 and does not include any additional costs for the purchase of new or additional equipment required in order to become certified or the cost of paying someone to get the program up and running.
Q. Are there additional costs after an agency becomes certified? A. Yes. The cost right now is about $3,500 a year, not including the possibility of the need to hire an additional staff member to manage the Calea membership (other agencies in Maine who are accredited have had to do this). Of course, as with anything, the annual fee can (and would likely) increase.
The Sheriff's Office refuses to investigate fatal accidents.
Here are the FACTS:
1. We previously had two deputies who were trained in accident reconstruction (one is no longer with the Sheriff's Office and the other allowed his certification to lapse and is not interested in renewing). These deputies provided this service in our county, but also travelled to neighboring counties to provide the same service to those county and municipal agencies who had no one on their staff trained or available to do so. In fact, Franklin County was paying to provide this service to other counties. It is not uncommon for county agencies to cooperate and share resources, but the average fatal crash reconstruction takes a significant amount of time, often over 40 hours, to complete all the calculations, graphing and number crunching. Had we continued to have a crash reconstructionist and mapper, we would have needed to upgrade our equipment. That cost would have been well over $6,000, just for the upgrade. That would have then fallen into the outdated equipment category as most mapping is now done by drone. The drones, which are quick to map a scene, are themselves extremely costly, and there is additional licensing required to be able to fly them. Drones often cannot be used in bad weather or at night which would require the use of the other old equipment, requiring the maintenance of multiple pieces of equipment. The cost of equipment and training necessary to maintain trained staff and equipment for this is staggering. Financially, our small county simply cannot keep up with the costs of the technology and mandated training.
2. We came to the conclusion that it made better sense to utilize the existing services of the Maine State Police with personnel who specialize in this area. We do this much the same way as we rely upon them to provide tactical team services in the event of a barricaded suspect. They have both the equipment and manpower to draw from across the State. Utilizing the services of the Maine State Police Reconstruction team saves Franklin County taxpayers significant costs in terms of certifying existing personnel in accident reconstruction (initial schools and then continuing education); as well as the cost to provide the proper equipment needed to conduct accident reconstruction (these costs run into the thousands of dollars for every fatal crash). Franklin County averages 4 or less fatal crashes each year in areas not served by their own police agency. Taxpayers are already paying for Maine State Police to provide this specialty service, which they do an outstanding job at, why do we need to duplicate their service at significant additional cost to the taxpayer, with no additional benefits.
Conclusion: We continue to provide exemplary service and coverage to all of Franklin County; our relationship with the Maine State Police has never been better. Through thoughtful management and administration we have saved you, the taxpayer, lots of dough. When a motor vehicle fatality does occur, our deputies respond to stabilize and preserve the scene and begin the investigative process. When the full resources of the Maine State Police takes over the scene - we continue to assist them in any capacity needed to complete the investigation.
FCSO Deputies do not feel safe or supported.
Here are the FACTS:
This may be the most hurtful and egregious rumor out there.
1. We support all of our employees, whether it may be issues at home or on the job. In every instance that something has come to our attention, we go above and beyond to offer support, resources and genuine concern to provide for our employees.
2. If a complaint comes forward, we investigate. Law enforcement officers are just like you - human. Occasionally minor disputes will occur within any organization (personality conflicts, etc.). We do our best to address each situation on its own merits and strive to find a solution that satisfies all parties involved.
3. We do our best to provide all employees with the very best equipment and respond to requests for anything they feel may help them to perform their job better or more safely.
4. We encourage all deputies to seek out some sort of specialty training they are interested in that will benefit the Sheriff's Office and our community, moving mountains if need be to ensure they get that training. A happy employee is a loyal employee. Part of our belief is that we should be helping each deputy learn a skill that will be useful to them once they retire. Too many police officers get caught in only knowing law enforcement and when they retire, they don’t know what to do with themselves. We work to go beyond making the deputies feel safe; we work to make them feel valuable and appreciated.
5. The door to every administrator is always open to every employee if they feel a need to talk or have a suggestion on how to improve our agency.
6. Franklin County offers an extensive Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in the event any county employee needs those confidential services.
FCSO has a high turn-over rate.
Here are the FACTS:
This is not a myth but a fact - not only for the Sheriff's Office but also for the Detention Center - this is not unique to our organization but a problem that exists nationwide in law enforcement, especially in today's environment.
Personnel issues are the hardest to tackle.
We strive to hire the best, period!
For various reasons folks sometimes decide to move on, whether they've discovered the position does not fit them personally, for family reasons, or because they find something better.
Deputies and Corrections Officers work a lot of nights, weekends and holidays and sometimes they would rather be home with their families like most people are.
They may not be able to keep up with the high standards of this agency or are unwilling to do so.
Health issues may arise which degrades job performance and they are simply no longer able to perform the necessary duties.
And sometimes you simply get a bad apple and we must go through the process of removing them. This is an extremely difficult and precarious task that can take a very long time.
Or sometimes they just find a better fit for themselves and their family.
It is always the policy of this Office to empower our employees to be the best and to provide them the necessary training, tools and the encouragement to do so.
Citizens are concerned in slow response times to calls.
Here are the FACTS:
As your Sheriff for the last (nearly) eight years, I can’t recall even one complaint about slow response times.
We have used staggered schedules (staggered sign on and sign off shift times) but have been experimenting to find a schedule that is more beneficial to both employee and taxpayer.
We have been actively engaged with the union to come up with a new schedule that will expand the daily hours of coverage while improving the lives of the deputies working that schedule. (The Sheriff does not have control over the schedule as the schedule is part of the union contract and changes to that is something that must be done through contract negotiations). This can take a significant amount of time to come to some compromise and agreement between the parties.
I continue to have an open door policy and encourage any citizen to either stop by or call, I would love to discuss and address any concerns.
FCSO cancelled the long-standing 'Call Share' agreement with the Maine State Police.
Here are the FACTS:
As a 23-year veteran of the Maine State Police, they have and always will be a part of who I am. I have tremendous respect for the organization and a continued relationship with many there. In 2019, the Troop Commander contacted me to meet and discuss ways to modify our current call share agreement and reduce their footprint in Franklin County.
After much brainstorming, we came up with and agreed to some modifications that met all our needs. We signed a new MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) that basically stated the Sheriff's Office would be primarily responsible for all calls in the county with the understanding that if we had an open shift or needed assistance, the Troopers would help plug the gap. State Police still staff at least one Trooper in the county to back up Deputies and handle any calls that come through their dispatch. Maine State Troopers are still taking calls if requested directly and are routinely working side by side with deputies responding to calls and investigating crimes.
FCSO Administrative staff does not fill in open shifts or fill gaps in coverage.
Here are the FACTS:
As your Sheriff, this is one of the first policies to be put into place when I was elected in 2012. I believe in working beside my Deputies. I have never taken an attitude of being above any job in the department. I believe it sets a good example to new hires and veterans alike. It is important to always provide the best service, response and coverage for residents - no matter what or who it takes. Heck, I even help sweep, mop and clean the toilets in the office!
You will find the Command Staff taking calls weekly, on top of doing their administrative jobs. You will also find them working nights and weekends. It is not unusual to find your Sheriff out working weekend nights, and in fact - to keep up with transparency in the Office through our Jail Logs and Weekly Reports put out to the media, your Sheriff has worked almost every holiday for the past several years when most others are scheduled off (yes, this includes Thanksgiving and Christmas!).
Age limits for Sheriff.
Here are the FACTS:
There is nothing in Maine law with regard to maximum age of a Sheriff. As your Sheriff, my current age (59) is well below the standard Social Security retirement age of 67, in fact, many folks work well into their 70s and beyond as they are able to contribute and provide extensive experience, insight and wisdom to many positions out there. With age comes wisdom and this is a job where wisdom is necessary on a daily basis.
We'll continue to update this page as new 'Myths' need some good 'ol fashioned 'Fact Checking' - so visit often for updates!