Updated June 26
BAR HARBOR — A public forum about community policing, held via webinar, is planned for Tuesday, July 7, and residents are urged to weigh in on an online survey by June 30 to help guide presenters as to which topics are most of interest to residents.
Black Lives Matter rallies and marches have brought issues about police policies and procedures into the spotlight and Chief Jim Willis of the Bar Harbor and Mount Desert police departments proposed having a forum for community discussion. It’s something the departments have discussed internally for some time, he said, and would dovetail with goals for strategic planning in the police chief sharing contract between the two towns.
“In anticipation of this event, the towns of Bar Harbor and Mount Desert would like to hear more from you about how we police as a community,” a statement on Bar Harbor’s town Facebook page said. “The information gathered (in the survey) will be given to the presenters to help them determine community areas of interest for the July 7 forum. The Mount Desert/Bar Harbor Police Departments welcome this opportunity for community engagement and recognize that the Black Lives Matter movement is integral to this discussion.”
Members of the Town Council supported the idea at their meeting June 16. “There’s a lot of fear and anger out there right now,” Councilor Matt Hochman said. The “Defund the Police” movement, “as I understand (it), is really to encourage community policing and change the way some incidents are responded to,” he said.
When she was working as an emergency room nurse, Councilor Jill Goldthwait said of the local police, there were “many times when I put my life in their hands. I never had to worry about anything except taking care of the patient because the officers around me had my back.”