Freeport chief hopes forums will make police more accessible

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FREEPORT — The new police chief is trying to make sure residents’ concerns are heard by holding public forums to discuss local and national issues.

Chief Susan Nourse held the town’s first Citizens on Patrol, or COP, Talk on Aug. 4. It was attended by about a dozen people.

Nourse, who was promoted from lieutenant in June, said she started the initiative because of national tensions surrounding police performance.

“I’m new in the position of chief, and with the questioning of police and community relations around the nation, I thought it’d be a good idea to have a public forum and to have people meet me in an informal position,” she said.

Any topic, whether related to Freeport or the country, is up for discussion, Nourse said. Most people on Thursday, Aug. 4, for example, talked about speeding and other traffic issues. 

Regardless of the topics discussed, Nourse said open communications between police departments and the towns they serve is important.

“Any kind of communication is important and people should know that if they have questions or concerns they can talk to us,” she said.

Nourse said she often talks to people while she’s out and about, but said not everyone is comfortable approaching a police officer to talk about their concerns. She said the public forum offers a comfortable way for people to talk openly.

“I (talk to citizens) by being in the community at local shops informally, but I wanted to offer a specific place for people to talk,” she said.

Nourse said she wants there to be “less of a conflict” between police officers and citizens, and having open lines of communication can help. She and Lt. Nathaniel Goodman were present at the Aug. 4 forum, and Nourse hopes to have other officers at future talks, including the department’s canine handler and the school resource officer.

“My idea is to have members of the public meet various officers in the department,” she said.

More COP Talks are being planned, but no dates have been set. The first one was held in the afternoon, but Nourse said she’d like to hold some in the morning and evening so a greater cross section of people can attend.

The first one, which lasted an hour, was held at Town Hall, but Nourse said she’d also like to hold the forums at the library and community center.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.