April 07, 2020

Calais police cleared in civil rights probe

CALAIS — An investigator for the Maine Human Rights Commission has concluded that the Calais Police Department was evenhanded in its responses to the complaints of a mixed-race couple who say they have been the object of harassment by area children. The commission will vote on the matter later this month.

In her report, Brenda Maliska wrote that last year Charles Newell, who is a Passamaquoddy, and Susan Newell, who is white, complained that the Calais Police Department discriminated against them because they are a mixed-race couple.

“They contend that the police do not provide them with adequate protection,” the investigator said in her report.

Maliska said in her report that Calais police Chief Michael Milburn said the department had responded repeatedly to complaints and requests for assistance from the Newells beginning in 1993 and continuing into 1996. The couple filed their complaint with the commission Jan. 17, 1997.

According to the investigator, the Newells moved in 1992 to Stillson Street near the Milltown Bridge. Police records reveal that they reported 27 incidents to the Calais Police Department. The complaints included 14 incidents involving children throwing rocks, trash and playing on their property; four involving dogs on their property and in their garbage; five complaints involving suspicious activity that included cars in their driveway, glass in their driveway and a broken windshield. There also were several miscellaneous calls, including a complaint about an all-terrain vehicle on their lawn and concerns about abandoned trailers.

Maliska said the Newells believe they live in the toughest neighborhood in Calais. “One time, from what we heard, they had a police officer patrolling the neighborhood on foot, it’s that bad. I hope this will give you some idea what kind of neighborhood we are living in,” the Newells told the investigator.

The investigator found there was no evidence that the Calais Police Department had not responded appropriately to the many calls the Newells made.

“If this is the `toughest neighborhood in Calais,’ then the Newells and their neighbors are going to have crime going on all around them. The crime did not arrive simply because the Newells moved in. It is a function of the neighborhood. According to the [Newells] there have been foot patrols and drug sweeps by law enforcement. Frustration over the crime has been transferred to frustration with law enforcement. While this is unfortunate, it is not an issue over which the Maine Human Rights Commission has jurisdiction,” the investigator wrote.

The investigator recommended that the complaints be dismissed.

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