Viewpoint: Sheriff Kane needs to resign 



I was shocked and dismayed to read the Jan. 28 story in the Islander about Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane canceling a contract for recovery services with Healthy Acadia because the organization voiced support for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.  

The decision is misguided, shortsighted and flat-out ignorant – a kneejerk reaction that is unfortunately typical of so many law enforcement agencies in this country. 

The sheriff justified his choice by citing that his “responsibility as a police officer is to keep people safe. Those types of protests, when they turn violent, nobody’s safe.”  

Right.  

Sounds like an argument straight from the mouths of Tucker Carlson, Rush Limbaugh or any of the other right-wing propogandists who have made a career out of grievance politics and stoking racist resentment. 

The fact is that the overwhelming majority of BLM protests – 93 percent (!) – were peaceful, according to a report published by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, a nonprofit that researches political violence and protests across the world. That organization took those findings from nearly 8,000 rallies held in all 50 states, so the sample size is more than enough to state unequivocally that those protests were peaceful. 

Yes, a small percentage of those protests turned violent, but they were in locales far removed from Maine – places like Kenosha, Wis., and Minneapolis, Minn. – cities that have long had justifiably uneasy connections with law enforcement agencies. In those places, majority white police departments patrol communities of color, creating understandably fraught relationshipsThose tensions can be explosive, and they erupt when white officers like Derek Chauvin and Rusten Sheskey murder unarmed Black men in broad daylight. Is it critical to state unequivocally that violence and rioting can never be condoned. But those actions can be explained. 

Regardless, those are situations that the Hancock County sheriff knows nothing of, as Maine has a vanishingly small minority population. If any of the BLM protests in the state took on some sort of menacing presence – if Main Street in Ellsworth was burned to the ground – there could be some sort of vindication in Sheriff Kane’s decision. But, of course, that’s not the case. Hancock County is far removed from the epicenter of those eventsIt’s laughable that BLM is even on Sheriff’s Kane radar – it’s the same kind of twisted logic that drives rural, all-white communities to enact restrictions against Sharia law.  

It would almost be easy to overlook Sheriff Kane’s decision as another empty gesture to appease right-leaning residents – the kind of purity signifier that has become the foundation of the new Republican Party under Trump. However, there are real life consequences behind this foolhardy move. 

As everyone in Hancock County knows, the region suffers from an opiate addiction crisis. While heroin, fentanyl and other pills ravage rural communities across the country, these dangers have been well known to Maine for generations. According to a 2018 report from the National Abuse of Drug Addiction, there were 23 opioid-related overdose deaths in Maine for every 100,000 people – the tenth highest rate in the country. A Bangor Daily News editorial from August posited that 2020 would be the deadliest year ever for opiate users, with more than 420 deaths projected (those results are still being calculated).  

So many Mainers lose their tragic battle against the disease of addiction. And the ones lucky enough to survive must then deal with a criminal justice system that has long been more focused on prevention and punishment than treatment, which is why so many users end up in correctional facilities like the Hancock County Jail. 

Healthy Acadia is one of the state’s leading providers for opioid recovery and addiction treatment services. It facilitates vital services for addicts in the Hancock County Jail who are looking to start anew and address their problems. To take away these services would be cruel and unjustifiable. To take away them because of a perceived political slight borders on sadistic.  

Healthy Acadia should be celebrated for taking a stand on racial equality – brave position to voice in a state that is 95 percent white. They should certainly not be punished, and those punishments should definitely not be felt by addicts simply trying to improve their lot in life. 

just don’t understand how a county can be governed by a law enforcement chief who gets his talking points from Fox News blowhards instead of looking at the facts on the ground.  

Hancock County residents should not be satisfied until Sheriff Kane resigns. Only then can the county move on from this embarrassing spectacle. 

 

Will Reisman resides in Bar Harbor  

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