Revamped ride-along policy expected

Selectmen limit cruiser rides

By Jenna Lookner | Jul 26, 2012

Lincolnville — Monday, July 23, the Lincolnville Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to temporarily suspend the police ride-along program — limiting passengers strictly to those pertaining to "police business." The stipulations are meant to allow town administrator David Kinney and Lincolnville Police Chief Ron Young to draft a policy pertaining to the future of the ride-along program.

Kinney said after speaking with the insurance company that holds the policy on the police cruiser, he learned the existing policy covers anyone in the cruiser; therefore, insurance premiums will not decrease if the program is suspended. Kinney said after speaking with Lincolnville Town Attorney Sally Daggett he also learned waivers are also "helpful" in preventing potential liability issues.

Cathy Hardy submitted a two-page written statement to Kinney, which she also provided to the newspaper. The statement, dated July 16, details her research about the ride-along policy in other local communities. Hardy's research indicates the only town with a program similar to the one Lincolnville has maintained is Belfast. Camden does not allow civilians to ride along, Rockport and Rockland have a strict policy that includes a waiver. Both Rockland and Rockport discourage civilians to ride along with police, according to the statement prepared by Hardy.

"We are paying [Chief Young] to keep our town safe — not to trot civilians around town to their personal appointments... this kind of transportation service is what family members, friends, neighbors and taxi services are for," Hardy's statement reads.

Kinney addressed rides to appointments in a telephone interview Tuesday, July 24. He said "a couple years ago" the police chief provided a resident with a ride to a medical appointment in Lincolnville Beach. Kinney said town office staff does their best to accommodate such requests and needs from residents when they call.

The discussion of the ride-along program dovetailed with a previous agenda item relating to community input regarding local law enforcement priorities following the reduction of the Lincolnville Police force to the full-time chief only effective July 1.

Christina Barrows, a resident of Lincolnville who has been training to become a police officer, said she has ridden along with police on numerous occasions.

"It's tremendous to get out there and learn things," she said to the board and an assembled audience of approximately 15 people.

Selectman Rosey Gerry moved to suspend the police ride-along program except for town officials. Gerry said the suspension could be altered at another meeting if the board deemed fit.

"Everything is susceptible to change," he said.

Selectmen Julia Libby, who is also director of Camden First Aid Association, said CFAA allows potential students to ride along on ambulance calls. She said it's one of the important ways people learn if the job is a good fit for them.

Gerry said he had no problem with students riding along if their presence would ultimately create some benefit for Lincolnville.

Selectmen Jason Trundy works for Waldo County Sheriff's Office. He said he feels placing a moratorium on the ride-along program — other than for town officials — is too limited.

"If the town wants to address ride-alongs it needs to be delved into a lot further," he said. Trundy urged the board to think about multiple scenarios when someone might be in the cruiser, such as getting a ride home after an accident or breakdown.

Gerry said he believes Young would make a good decision by calling a wrecker or AAA in that circumstance.

"I've done the job," Trundy replied, "I know there are times when I've had to put people in my [cruiser] and transport them."

Citizen concerns included creating a policy that would make it unacceptable for Young to offer rides to residents — particularly children — walking in unsafe or frigid circumstances, or transporting citizens in the cruiser following an accident or emergency. The general sentiment from a group of residents — including Hardy — was they do not want police giving courtesy rides to residents, particularly transportation to and from medical appointments.

Young said in 20 years and at three law enforcement agencies there has been "not one incident, not one person, I didn't want in my car."

Former Selectman Paul Crowley also weighed in at the podium.

"If someone is broken down and it's 20 below I want the police to pick them up," he said.

Young and Kinney are charged with preparing a draft of a new ride-along policy the board of selectmen will subsequently review.

Courier Publications reporter Jenna Lookner can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at jlookner@courierpublications.com.

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