Source: The Bangor Daily News (ME)
Pubdate: Wed, 22 Jul 1998
Author: Walter Griffin, Of the NEWS Staff


CAMDEN - Just as the town is divided over recent police actions, so is the
Board of Selectmen over the idea of forming a task force to review Police
Department policies. The selectmen voted 3-2 this week to create a task
force to review police policies in the aftermath of public complaints about
the way the department conducted a drug bust last month. Some in town
deplored the methods used, others commended police for working to keep the
town drug free.

The daylight raid on a Norwood Avenue apartment resulted in one adult being
charged with selling marijuana. Four local high school boys were also
inside when police forced their way into the smoke-filled house. The police
were heavily armed and wearing bulletproof vests. Forty packages of
marijuana were found in the apartment. The occupants were unarmed.

One of the teen-age boys present in the apartment told his parents police
were rough with him and cursed him and his friends during the bust. David
Clark, the 19-year-old charged with drug dealing, had arrived in Camden a
few months ago after being acquitted of attempted murder in Philadelphia.

The way the drug bust was handled outraged not only the parents of the
teen-agers, but also parents of many of their high school classmates.

A formal complaint filed by one parent against the police is being reviewed
by an independent, outside investigator. In addition, some parents held an
open forum at the First Congregational Church last week in an attempt to
resolve what they perceive as a growing gulf between the police and the
community's youth.

''We believe that our police force is taking an adversarial stance in many
situations and rather than be models of ethical behavior, helping and
safe-guarding the public, they have adopted belligerent attitudes and
language,'' a group of 40 parents told selectmen in a prepared statement.

Although no one is saying so publicly, it appears that a perception is
growing among area youth that the police have been handcuffed by the
parental criticism. Officers are being cursed on a regular basis and, last
weekend, two had the path of their cruiser blocked by a group of seven
young people on the public landing. Langston Beram, 20, of Warren was
charged with obstructing a public way and failure to disperse, but Sgt.
Glen Wakefield and Patrolman Alan King allowed the other youths and
juveniles to walk away.

Selectmen Brian Keefe, Peter Gross and Leonard Lookner agreed the task
force was necessary. Sid Lindsley and John French were opposed to the

French called the decision an emotional reaction to a nonexistent problem.
He said that while ''there may be some room for community relations''
within the police department, a full review of existing policies was

''I think this is too emotional right now and things need to settle down,''
French said. ''They are going about this for all the wrong reasons. If
we're going to have a community-wide look at the police, maybe we should
have a community-wide look at some of these parents. People have to take
responsibility for their children.''

Police Chief Terry Burgess, although leery about the task force, pledged to
assist its members. Burgess said Tuesday that the department's policies
were open for anyone to review and questioned the need to involve an
outside group.

''My objection is based on the fact that I don't have a good understanding
of what they want the task force to accomplish,'' Burgess said. ''Too often
people come forward because they have an issue. I think the makeup of this
group is going to be crucial to its ability to be objective. I guess we'll
just have to wait and see.''

The civilian task force is expected to look into police policies and
procedures, including the use of armed force in carrying out police duties.
The parents also want it to address the department's attitude toward

''This group of concerned citizens has not taken the task of approaching
the Board of Selectmen on the matter of the current attitude and posture of
the Camden Police Department lightly,'' the parents stated. ''This group is
not made up of disgruntled parents who want their kids to get away with
anything. We fully realize and expect that our children must obey the law,
and that when they are caught breaking the law, we expect that they will
have to pay the consequences. Our intent is not to polarize our community
but to demand strong ethical behavior in policing. It is a difficult

As selectmen view it, the task force will be composed of 10 to 12
residents. Interested residents may apply to serve on the panel by
notifying the town office by the end of next week. The selectmen will then
name the members and give them their instructions at their August 17
meeting. The task force will be given a specific period of time to complete
its work and then will be disbanded, according to Town Manager Roger Moody.

''The words I heard most were attitude and culture,'' Moody said after the
meeting. ''Right now I'm not sure what police policies relate to those
broadly defined issues or what attitudes are involved.''

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Checked-by: (Joel W. Johnson)