Portland neighborhoods get go-to police officers
PORTLAND — The Portland Police Department is now only a text message or phone call away for residents concerned about crime or other issues in their neighborhoods.
Police Chief James Craig on Oct. 9 unveiled the department's new "Senior Lead Officer" program, which makes a particular officer the primary contact for residents in each of seven different sectors of the city. Craig touted the program as a critical step in community and neighborhood policing.
"People want someone to contact," the chief said. "It's about building relationships."
Each lead officer will have a cellular phone and e-mail address so residents in their sector can contact them directly. The phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the lead officers are expected to be posted on the Police Department Web site this week. While the officers will still work regular shifts, Craig said the ability to directly contact them during those hours will make a tremendous difference.
Cmdr. Michael Sauschuck, who introduced the seven officers at an afternoon press conference, said many of them are already well known in specific neighborhoods.
"These officers have been doing this job since they got hired here," Sauschuck said. "They are specialists in one particular neighborhood."
The lead officers will be recognizable by special patches on their uniforms, with two chevrons and a star.
Officer Gayle Petty is the lead officer for Sector 1, which includes the East End, Munjoy Hill and East Bayside. Petty has been with the department for 15 years and is also a photographer.
Officer Dan Knight has been assigned Sector 2, which includes Bayside and part of downtown. Knight is known as one of the department's "bike cops." He has been an officer in Portland for 21 years and is a past recipient of the department's Award for Heroism and Award for Bravery.
In Sector 3, Officer Jeff Hawkins is the lead officer. The sector includes part of downtown and the Old Port. Hawkins, a 10-year veteran of the force, has walked a beat in the Old Port, is an ex-Marine and recently hiked Machu Picchu in Peru.
A 26-year veteran of the department, Officer Karl Geib is assigned to Sector 4, which includes the West End and Parkside. Geib, the other "bike cop," is working toward his master's degree in School Guidance and participates in ultra-marathons.
Officer Tim Farris is the lead officer for Sector 5, which includes Libbytown, Deering Center and Woodfords/Oakdale. Farris has been a Portland officer for 12 years. He is into alternative energy, incorporating it into the home he built, and started the department's Explorer's Post this summer.
The lead officer for Sector 6, encompassing East Deering, Back Cove and Riverton, is Officer Andjelko Napijalo. A native of Croatia, Napijalo moved to the U.S. in 1999 and has been an officer in Portland five years. He has a degree in engineering and Sauschuck called him "truly a machine" for his high productivity while on patrol.
Officer Robert Lauterbach will be the Peaks Island lead officer, in Sector 7. Lauterbach has been a member of the department for five years and was an officer for the New York City Police Department before moving here. He did similar community policing work in that city.
Sgt. Charles Libby will oversee the new program.
Also given a new job was Officer Raymond Ruby. As the Youth Services Officer, Ruby will coordinate the Police Athletic League and the Explorer program. He has been an officer in Portland for five years, volunteers in local schools and at the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center. Ruby also started the "Shop with Cops" program, which pairs officers with kids for holiday shopping.
Craig also announced the promotions of Sgt. Gary Hutcheson to lieutenant and officers Frank Gorham and Andrew Hutchings to the rank of sergeant.
As an officer in Los Angeles, Craig had the role of "senior lead officer." He said that while the Portland program is different, it is still aimed at taking community policing "to the next level."
The officers will meet with neighborhood watch groups, businesses and civic groups in their sectors and also attend neighborhood events.
"These senior lead officers are going to have great expectations," Craig said.