PARIS — An apology from Paris Police Chief Michael Madden for Operating Under the Influence in November was good enough for Selectmen and the few residents who addressed the chief during Monday night’s meeting.
He teared up at the beginning of his comments after he saw that every full-time employee in the department — sans one officer who was
scheduled to arm surgery Tuesday morning — sat in the meeting room in the Town Office. Madden noted that he has a communications background and is usually able to speak off the cuff with ease, but since he considered the incident “a personal tragedy,” he jotted down some notes.
“Everything I am going to say to you tonight is from here,” Madden said as he gently pounded his fist over his heart. “First of all, I would like to apologize to the Board of Selectmen, the town manager and all the town employees, including the Fire Department and EMS, and including the town of Paris. I let you down as a police chief. My actions were reckless, they were unprofessional and they were not what you deserve from your police chief. … I will provide no excuses for that night.”
His biggest apology was to the town and his officers because, he said, the incident has been a giant distraction.
“All I can tell you it was a human mistake. Yes I am police officer, but I am a human,” Madden said, noting he’s aware that he’s held to a higher standard as the chief.
Madden, of Harrison, was named chief of the Paris Police Department in October 2013 after leaving a job as deputy chief in Shelton, Conn.
On Nov. 21, 2014, he was pulled over just after midnight by Cumberland County Sheriff’s Sgt. Andrew Feeney on Harrison Road in Naples. The sergeant wrote in his police report that Madden crossed over the centerline several times while in his personal vehicle and left his turn signal on for half a mile. Feeney conducted a field sobriety test and a Breathalyzer test followed. Madden’s blood-alcohol content was at or above 0.08 percent, the legal limit for driving, according to court documents.
Madden said Monday night that he had been advised by his lawyer, Matt Nichols of Portland, in accordance with town policy, to not discuss the details on the incident in public.
While two residents said they didn’t agree with the process or the outcome, they appreciated Madden standing up and addressing the town.
“Everybody makes mistakes and we have to work through that, but it takes a lot of guts to do what he did,” Mike Risica said.
“I hope that you give the same consideration to your officers that was given to you by the town if something like that happened to one of them,” resident William Merrill said to the chief. “I don’t agree with the complete outcome. I know you’ve done a good job and I appreciate it.”
Deputy Town Clerk Dian Rainey noted she wasn’t a resident of Paris but a lot of positive things have happened since Madden took the helm of the Police Department.
“I have seen a big change in the attitude of people in this town and we’ve grown to have a lot of respect and it’s due to the Police Department being professional and always being there to help people,” Rainey said. “And I support you, Mike.”
The chief said he saw a couple of things floating around that concerned him, including the idea that calling his officers together to tell them about the incident was coercion.
“It was my intent to call the rank and file together because that’s what a leader should do,” Madden said, adding his wanted his officers to hear from him first what happened. “I think that’s the respect I owe them and they’ve given me that respect since I’ve been here. … The days of ‘I don’t like what you have to say’ or ‘you are you and I’m going to put you on a different shift’ are over. If that occurred here, that doesn’t occur now, and they know that.”
He said he did not fight his license suspension, but requested an administrative hearing with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. He wanted to take advantage of the law process so additional information could come out about the arrest. After the administrative hearing in Portland on April 6, Madden had his driver’s license suspended for 150 days.
“I did not ask for a delay in my license suspension. I don’t like it. It’s certainly not convenient for me,” Madden said. “And I just want to put it by me and move forward, but most of all I want the ability for these guys to move forward so we can continue to do what we’ve done as a police department over the last almost two years now.”
School Resource Officer Hartley “Skip” Mowatt was the only police officer to speak up for the chief during the public comments portion of the meeting, thanking him for apologizing. He said when the chief sat his officers down to explain what happened, they initially thought he was leaving.
“He asked us point blank, ‘Do you want me to stay or do you want me to leave? I work for you guys,’” Mowatt recounted Madden saying. “He promised he would go forward, take care of it and deal with it, and he has. That is why all of us in the Police Department are backing him 100 percent.”
Town Manager Amy Bernard suspended Madden for 30 nonconsecutive days without pay, which began April 2. Lt. Jeffrey Lange has filled in during Madden’s absence.
The day after the administrative hearing, Madden accepted a deal, pleading guilty to operating under the influence, a Class D misdemeanor. He was fined $500 and his license suspension was upheld.
Madden said Monday night he already paid the fine and completed the required alcohol course in January.
For the first 30 days of the suspension, Madden can not drive.
Bernard said at the selectmen’s meeting two weeks ago that the chief would pay for the interlock devices — which require the driver to blow into the device before turning the car on and while the vehicle is in motion — to be installed in his own personal vehicle and a town police cruiser by May 8. This allows him to drive after the first 30 days of the suspension.
While the court proceedings for Madden’s OUI are complete, he still has to come before the Maine Criminal Justice Academy’s Complaint Review Committee since he’s been convicted of a Class D crime. The committee can impose a number of sanctions, including giving a letter of guidance, reprimand, suspension for a period of time or ultimately revoke certification, academy Director John Rogers said last week. Madden will first have an informal conference to give his side of the story. The earliest it could be scheduled is July 11.