July 13, 2020

Car crimes at center of police probe

BANGOR – A former Bangor police officer is under investigation for slashing four automobile tires and stealing hubcaps, actions that took place while he was on the force and that could lead to criminal charges against him, according to sources close to the case.

The two incidents allegedly occurred more than a year ago while former Officer Joshua Ouellette was still a uniformed patrolman with the department.

Since Ouellette’s Sept. 20 resignation, the matter has embroiled a second Bangor policeman. Officer Brad Hanson resigned from the department last Friday.

So far Bangor Police Chief Don Winslow has said only that Ouellette’s alleged actions involved Class E (misdemeanor) property crimes. Citing the confidentiality of the investigation, which is nearing completion, Winslow has declined to say what the alleged crimes involved.

But sources familiar with what happened and with those involved said this week that Ouellette slashed the tires after the vehicle’s owner had been arrested. The hubcaps were taken from another vehicle in a separate incident.

Winslow has said that Hanson’s resignation was not because he was involved in criminal activity, but he declined to say Thursday what led to the officer’s being placed on administrative leave with pay on Oct. 11.

The investigation could be concluded today and forwarded to the Penobscot County District Attorney’s Office for review, Winslow said.

Ouellette resigned from the police department within days of being placed on administrative leave by Winslow, who has described the matter as probably the most serious situation he’s had to deal with as police chief.

The police department launched an internal investigation into two reports of alleged criminal activity that came to light when Ouellette, a Bangor police officer for four years, applied for a job with the Maine State Police.

Hanson, a Bangor police officer for more than five years, resigned before he was questioned about the incidents, Winslow said.

As an extension of the investigation, Winslow said he will be evaluating whether other officers knew about the incidents and failed to report them.

Winslow said that he is confident no one else was an active participant in what happened.

“I’m confident that there isn’t anyone else involved in criminal conduct,” he said.

The incidents, while still allegations, have nonetheless had a detrimental effect on those who work in the police department, the police chief said.

“This has clearly rocked the police department,” Winslow said in an interview Thursday.

Sworn law enforcement officers and civilians who also work in the department are disgusted with the situation and feel that they will be unfairly equated with the alleged incidents.

“They feel that they are now being scrutinized for the actions of one person,” the chief said.

Winslow said that the alleged actions don’t reflect the overall police department. He said there are daily examples of police officers going above and beyond what is required of them, abiding by the laws and serving the public.

He pointed to officers showing restraint when shortly after midnight Thursday they confronted a teenager armed with a gun who had forced his way into an apartment and demanded money and drugs.

Although the incident could have turned deadly for the teenager, police took him into custody without injury, he said.

Winslow said the investigation into the alleged misconduct will be thorough and that he hoped that it would help reaffirm the public’s trust in the department.

“It sends a clear message that we’re here to uphold the law and that we have a very important job to do that is dependent on the public’s trust,” he said.

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