By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
The ground rumbled. Houses started shaking. Calls flooded the police, fire and emergency lines. Many turned on their TVs, looking for the answer. Others felt this was the end, their petitions for mercy filled the air, rising to Elysium. Then, suddenly, everything stopped.
An eerie quiet prevailed. Opening their eyes, they viewed the bright sun and blue skies. They ran from their homes to check and converse with their neighbors. Reaching the street, they suddenly froze in fear.
For over a year, the Lewiston Police Department had conducted Operation Hot Spots, greatly reducing neighborhood crime. Police officers, federal agents and state drug enforcement officers would saturate the neighborhood every few weeks. From time to time, dogs were brought in to sweep the area.
But now they had gone too far. There, standing before them in the middle of the street, was a tank.
Really? I regret to inform the readers that this is nothing more than an urban myth. Neither the City of Lewiston, nor its police department, has a tank. A tank is an offensive weapon and has no place in local law enforcement.
At this time, the only city department that could justify possessing a tank would be Public Works. They could use the tank as a quick and cost-effective method for what our downtown is in vital need of—urban renewal.
So to those who have gotten their shorts in a knot over the tank rumor, chill out. There will be no Tiananmen Square on my watch.
However, we have been loaned an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), which has been stripped of all its combat weapons. Its only practical use is to ferry personnel from point A to point B. This piece of equipment will be at the ready, should it be needed to protect or save lives.
About 16 years ago, the Lewiston Police responded to a request from a woman asking them to stand by while she removed the belongings from the apartment she shared with her husband. As the woman, a friend and the officer climbed the stairway to the apartment, the husband appeared at the door with a .30-06 rifle. He then shot and killed his wife. As the officer and friend retreated seeking cover, the husband shot the wife’s friend.
Once safely away from the house, police set up a perimeter, and for the next several hours a stand-off occurred. This came to a conclusion with the suicide of the husband. If the department had this APC at the time, officers could have safely reentered the building, and evacuated other tenants living there. They also could have safely brought the stand-off to a quick end.
I congratulate the police administration for having the foresight in obtaining this piece of equipment, which, if ever needed, will save lives.
It was a rough couple of days last week at the Lewiston Police Department. Mistakes were made and capitalized on by a defense attorney, who did a great job trying to create “reasonable doubt” in what was (and certified by the jury) a slam-dunk case. The publicity caused morale to wane. The men and women of our police department have been publicly embarrassed during a criminal trial.
But then the true character and “can do” spirit of these professionals came shining through. They didn’t sit, pout and feel sorry for themselves. No, they went out and in a 72-hour period arrested three groups of burglary suspects that had been pillaging neighborhoods both day and night throughout the city. They did an exceptional job, and as mayor I commend them for their hard work and professionalism.
The dog-and-pony show in Superior Court last week showed some mistakes were made. A full review of this case will be conducted and, if necessary, new procedures will be adopted. But let’s not let this one out of many cases tarnish our stellar police department, a department that is the best in the state.