Sheriff cuts ties with MDEA; DVD showing agent reason for decision

This story was published on Feb. 25, 2008 on Page A1 in all editions of the Bangor Daily News

MACHIAS – Sheriff Donnie Smith of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department has ordered his staff members not to work with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency until further notice.

Smith made the order in a memorandum that was sent out Friday to his department’s patrol deputies and other law enforcement officers.

“Until further notice all operations with Maine Drug Enforcement Agency are suspended,” the memo reads. “No personnel from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office will participate in any operation involving Maine Drug Enforcement.”

On Sunday, Smith said a DVD he recently acquired that shows an MDEA agent engaged in “disturbing” behavior is the reason behind his decision. He declined to identify the agent.

“The entire agency’s credibility is in question until this is cleared up,” Smith said Sunday during a phone interview with the Bangor Daily News. “The whole thing is inappropriate. It’s very damaging, I think.”

Smith said the video is about two hours long and is believed to have been recorded in the summer of 2006. It shows an MDEA agent, in an apparent attempt at humor, flashing his badge, drinking a beer and then driving off in a car.

It also shows the agent and others discharging weapons and engaged in activity Smith called “indecent exposure.” One of the other people in the two-year-old video is a man who recently was convicted and sentenced for possession of child pornography, the sheriff said.

Smith said that if the agent was intoxicated when he was firing weapons, he could be charged with reckless conduct.

“I think it needs to be investigated,” he said. “There should have been criminal charges.”

He also said MDEA officials have known about the video but have done nothing about it.

In an e-mail sent with Smith’s memorandum, Lt. David Denbow makes it clear to deputies that the department will not shirk its responsibilities.

“This does not mean that we will not work drug cases when we have information to act upon,” Denbow wrote of Smith’s order. “Any that you develop that requires action should be treated as any other criminal information and be investigated as such within the limits of your abilities.”

Stephen McCausland, spokesman for Maine Department of Public Safety, said Sunday that Smith made Commissioner Anne Jordan aware of the DVD late last week. State police took a copy of the DVD to the Attorney General’s Office in Augusta, he said.

“We’ll review it,” McCausland said.

McCausland stressed that Smith’s action would not affect MDEA investigations.

“We will continue to pursue illegal drug activity in Washington County,” he said. “We are hopeful that this will be resolved quickly.”


A1 for Monday, Feb. 25, 2008

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