Police security details upheld

MOUNT DESERT — With no discussion, the board of selectmen voted 4-0 Monday night to authorize the police department to continue hiring out off-duty officers for private security and traffic control.

Town Manager Durlin Lunt placed the matter on the agenda after former Bar Harbor Police Chief Nate Young complained that it is inappropriate for the police department to provide private security.

Young did not attend Monday’s meeting, and there was no mention of his objections.

He told the Islander on Tuesday that he hadn’t known the matter was to be on the agenda for Monday’s meeting. He had told board of selectmen chairman John Macauley in a June 15 email that he would like to have a discussion with the board about the police department providing private security. Macauley said in an email response June 23 that the selectmen would be “addressing [his] concerns” at their June 29 meeting.

However, June 29 was the fifth Monday of the month, and the board’s regular meetings are only on the first and third Mondays.

Asked Tuesday if he intends to press his objections with town officials, Young said, “I’ve said what I had to say.”

The Mount Desert Police Department charges $75 an hour, with a three-hour minimum, for an off-duty officer to provide property or personal security services or to control traffic for private functions, such as weddings and parties. The officer gets $50 an hour plus benefits.

Young has reviewed records of the police department’s “outside details” over the past two years. He said he doesn’t object to off-duty officers directing traffic for private events.

“[But] as far as I’m concerned, public safety does not belong in the security business,” he said. “If an estate wants long-term security for their property, they should hire their own private security.”

Last year, Young set up a corporation called Acadia Security Solutions and received a security company license from the Maine Department of Public Safety. He said he did that only because a prospective client had encouraged him to. But then that client, who in previous years had contracted with the Mount Desert Police Department for security services, decided to do so again this year.

Under the agreement between the police department and a property owner, who isn’t named in the document, off-duty officers will provide security 12 hours a day for at least six weeks this July and August.

Mount Desert and Bar Harbor Police Chief Jim Willis has said his department does not solicit private security or traffic control business, but provides those services when requested as long as they don’t interfere with the department’s public duties.

“I view it very much as a service that folks in the community have asked us to do,” Willis told the selectmen Monday night. “I came to the board [several years ago], and they said, ‘Yes, we would like you to provide that service,’ so we have.

“We haven’t said no to anybody for a few years,” he added.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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