Chief of Police Addresses Drug Concerns and Other Community Issues

 By Jayna Smith

With great concern by many over the latest rumors of gang activity in the greater Calais area and other issues involving the Calais Police Department, Chief of Police David Randall recently shared how his department is working to better the community.    

 With two recent drug seizures in Calais, one of heroin and one of crack cocaine, coupled with rumors of gang activity, Chief Randall explained that both individuals have been charged with illegal possession of scheduled W drug.  “As far as the intelligence about who the individuals were selling the drugs for, I am not at liberty to make any comments on that.  Those comments would be on raw intelligence that was not intended for public knowledge and it would not be proper for me to release that information,” he said, adding “I will not speculate as to their criminal gang affiliation.”

Chief Randall did explain that the abuse of drugs in Calais and in Washington County is of critical concern.  “This is not a new problem by any means.  We have been dealing with the drugs in this area for as long as I have been here with the Calais Police Department.”  In previous years, Randall explained, most of the drugs in the area were brought in from Canada.  “It appears that the drugs are coming more from the south, out-of-state, than from across the border.  That is not to say that drugs no longer come from Canada.” 

 He also said that the drug situation has not improved over the years.  The types of drug being used and dealt have changed, however.  CPD is seeing crack cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and prescription drugs more than ever before. 

 In an attempt to help combat the illegal activity in the city, the police department has initiated Operation Watch Your Neighborhood (OWN).  This initiative helps develop everyone’s power of observation and fosters mutual assistance and concern among neighbors while encouraging them to report any suspicious activity to the police.  “This has been very successful to keep some of the major players out of the City of Calais; however, it is not enough,” Chief Randall said.  “We have to keep working closely with other agencies and keep the pressure on until the dealers make mistakes and we get enough evidence to charge them with criminal cases.”

 Last year’s addition of a detective has also benefited the police department and the citizens of Calais.  The role of the detective is obtaining all of the criminal information and compiling it to be used by all agencies in an effort to pursue arrests.  “The cases take a lot of time and having someone dedicated to these drug crimes is valuable,” Chief Randall said. 

 In addition to the Chief and the detective, CPD also has one sergeant, four patrolmen, and one administrative assistant, along with four reserve officers.  On most occasions, only two officers work at the same time.  “There is some overtime that cannot be avoided, such as hearings and court cases,” Chief Randall said.  “Some of the overtime is contractual.  If there are open shifts, they need to be covered to make sure someone will respond in case of an emergency.”  And although CPD sometimes receives assistance from other agencies such as border patrol and Baileyville PD, those agencies never receive the initial complaints or calls from Calais. 

The officers of the Calais Police Department respond to many different types of calls in a day.   Chief Randall said the most common complaint calls are related to illicit drugs, specifically such things as theft, assault, burglary, domestic violence, and shoplifting.  Still, he says there are many calls that have nothing to do with crime at all.  “There are times when we are brought into a family situation and try and get the family the help they need to work out some issues.  Police work many times is less about arresting people and more about helping people,” Chief Randall explained.    

Chief Randall and his officers also see a great amount of domestic violence.  “This circle of violence passed down through the generations is a hard cycle to break.  Drug abuse and poverty many times lead to domestic violence which hurts the whole community.

 Although Calais has seen a decline in population, Chief Randall explained results of traffic surveys.  “We have two million cars that travel through the City of Calais in a year.  That is not just what comes through the borders.  Maine DOT does traffic surveys and the points for the count were on North Street by Garfield and South Street by Garfield.” 

The police department deals not only with the residents, but also with many of those coming into the city from away.  “I know many people do not like the idea of the City of Calais being a service center, but it is true.  We have the retail stores, gas stations, restaurants, etc.  We are also a service center for some of the bad things like drugs.  All of the people who live and come to the city of Calais expect to be safe and we do our best to make sure they are. 

   “As long as I am Chief of Police, Calais Police Department will enforce the laws of the State of Maine.  We do not condone dealing drugs, stealing to support a habit, driving under the influence, damaging or destroying someone else’s property, assaulting someone.  Bottom line is we do not support and will never condone anyone in the City of Calais violating the law.”

 Still, there are some in the community who feel the CPD officers do not always spend time efficiently.  To that, Chief Randall responded by stating, “If someone has a complaint about one of the officers, he or she should contact me so I can look into the matter.  If there is an issue, I would like the chance to address it.  I have told the City Council this and I stand behind it.  I take pride in the fact that I investigate every complaint that is filed, but if someone is not willing to sit down with me and discuss what is happening, it is hard to follow through.  I deal with facts and I cannot investigate something that is a rumor.  I have policies and procedures to follow during a personnel investigation. 

“I have heard from some City Councilors that people they talk to will not come forward and talk to me.  I can’t fix a problem if I don’t know about it.  It may be as simple as a miscommunication, but we will never know unless I am contacted.” 

He also urges citizens to contact the police department with any information regarding open cases, even if to the tip line (454-8730) where one can remain anonymous.  “Any information is welcome and you never know, just a small piece of information could help us solve a big case.  We want to work with the community to make it a better place for everyone.”

 Support from the community is always of great value for the department.  “I know there are times people do not like some of the things we enforce and would like us to enforce things we can’t, but we are trying hard to do the right thing.  It is unfortunate that some people try to put us in a bad light, but we understand that these things happen and we continue to do the best we can and move forward.”

 With regards to the financial challenges faced by the City of Calais, Chief Randall said, “The police service will depend on what the council decides to give me for a budget.  If they feel that there are too many police officers in this town, it is the council that will make the choice to give the department less money.  I can only work with what I am given and I will take what I am given and do the best I can with it.”  

Having worked in the City of Calais for 25 years, Chief Randall said he has met some of the best people in the world.  “I like to think that the City of Calais helped me not only grow, but grow up.  As a rookie cop, many citizens had patience with me as I realized that police work was more about helping people than arresting people.  I don’t know where the City of Calais is going to be in ten years, but I am guessing we will all still be here working together and moving forward.  I just hope we all learn from our mistakes and try harder to work as a team.”