Behind the scenes with 718
Seven checks for wanted individuals, two written warnings and one ticket for vehicle infractions, gathering information about a possible harassment, and a K-9 drug search is among a day's work for Knox County Sheriff's Deputy John Palmer.
Palmer, originally from Long Island in New York state, has served as a deputy for the sheriff's office for six years and says it is a job he loves. He also works with the county's only K-9 — Jake — his 5-year-old yellow Labrador retriever that specializes in the detection of several different kinds of narcotics. Palmer initially began as a part-time deputy before taking a full-time position in April 2006.
Prior to becoming a deputy, he worked as a prison guard at Maine State Prison from 2002 to 2006. He also served six years in the U.S. Marines, where he obtained the rank of sergeant and served two years in the Presidential Honor Guard in Washington, D.C., under Pres. Bill Clinton.
Every morning, Palmer, identified on the police radio as 718, starts his work day reviewing people that have warrants issued for their arrest and attempts to locate them throughout the day, as well as delivering subpoenas to appear in court and court orders, while taking care of other business. He also currently has three open active investigations for a sex offense, forgery and assault, he says.
The deputy says some days he can drive between 150 and 300 miles and can respond to as many as 15 calls for help. Other days are spent doing paperwork, he says.
First on the list is a warrant for a man with an address at an apartment complex near Union Common. Palmer knocks on the door and informs the people inside it is the Knox County Sheriff's Office.
As a man opens the door, the smell of marijuana is present. Palmer asks if the wanted man is available and learns he no longer resides at the address. He discovers some marijuana on the kitchen counter and questions the three people inside. The man who answered the door tells Palmer he has a prescription so Palmer asks to see his medical marijuana card, but the man can not produce it. The deputy continues to question the apartment occupants if they have more of the drug. Eventually Palmer asks for their identification and returns to his cruiser to run their names for warrants, if they are on probation or have other conditions placed on them by the court.
The three have clean records and Palmer issues the residents a warning. He confiscates smoking paraphernalia and a usable amount of marijuana.
"The important thing is I got it out of their house," the officer says of the drug.
Knox County is broken into two patrol zones. The north zone includes Washington, Appleton, Hope, Union, Warren and Friendship and the south is Owls Head, South Thomaston, Spruce Head and the St. George peninsula, which includes the villages of Tenants Harbor, Martinsville and Port Clyde.
These are the towns that are actively patrolled, but the sheriff's office has jurisdiction in any city or town in the county. However, he says, generally the sheriff's deputies do not answer calls in towns that have a local police department.
"The sheriff's patrol is like the county police department, but a lot of people don't know that," Palmer says.
After the Union warrant check, he goes to three more homes, two in Union and one in Hope, to check for people who are wanted. Often times, he says, the person no longer lives at the address, it's the parent's home of the wanted person or it's simply a bad address. Palmer says it's frustrating that the state of Maine only requires people to update their driver's licenses every six years.
On the way back to the sheriff's office, Palmer pulls over a vehicle on Route 17 in Rockport. As soon as the blue lights are activated, a camera begins filming the stop. Palmer swings wide as he pulls up behind the car, so the front end of his vehicle is slightly in the road. Palmer says this is so he doesn't get hit by a car from behind as he talks to the driver of the stopped vehicle. As he approaches the car, the officer also touches the vehicle so his fingerprints are left on the vehicle. That is in case something happens, such as a drive-off, and the person cannot say they weren't ever stopped, he says.
The female driver had been operating with an expired registration, but after Palmer checks her identification to make sure she's not wanted and also has a valid license, he gives her a written warning.
"She said she didn't know it had expired so this is just a friendly reminder," he says as he writes the warning.
Palmer says he also is upfront with people when he initially approaches the car and lets the driver know right then whether they will be receiving a warning or a ticket.
After a quick stop at the station, it's off to patrol the southern zone of the county. The first stop is in South Thomaston to check on another warrant — yet another bad address. Then it's time to run radar on Dublin Road, through Spruce Head and back to South Thomaston on Route 131 to deliver a protection from harassment order.
Palmer spots an oncoming vehicle and activates the lights and turns the cruiser around to pursue the vehicle. A man is issued a written warning for an expired inspection sticker and told he has two days to get it inspected or face a summons.
"There have been times in my life I've forgotten to get an inspection, but this is eight months overdue," Palmer notes. In general, anything beyond a month overdue, he issues a warning and anything above a year, he gives a ticket, he says.
Each time Palmer stops someone, K-9 Jake jumps in the front seat, lets out a couple of barks and intently watches his handler. Palmer says there have been times where a physical altercation has taken place and Jake intently barks from the vehicle. The officer says he wonders what the dog would do if he were let out: if he would just continue to bark or if he would physically defend the deputy.
Next Palmer heads down the St. George peninsula where several day-time burglaries have been reported in the past month. He says homeowners have discovered their doors open and that people have helped themselves to their belongings. Most of the time it's to support a drug habit, Palmer says.
"We try to get down there [St. George], show our colors and to see if there is anything unusual," he says of the burglaries.
While in Port Clyde, Palmer stops a vehicle that has no inspection sticker. The man is issued a ticket for failure to display a current or valid inspection sticker, which is a $133 fine. Palmer takes a picture of the car's windshield for evidence.
The deputy then receives a call from Knox County Communications about a complaint from a Cushing resident who reported someone posted signs on his property stating a sexual predator lives at the home. The man is a lifetime registrant on the Maine Sex Offender Registry, but the complainant told the police the incident was many, many years ago and "he had done his time."
Palmer meets with the homeowners and suggests they invest in a game camera to install on the property, hidden from view, that could help police with the investigation. He also takes the signs and speaks with a neighbor who says he saw a bronze-colored PT Cruiser pull up between 8 and 10 a.m. that same morning.
Next stop is another warrant check on Colonel Stairs Road, where a man's mother agreed to contact him and have him call police. About 10 minutes later, the man contacts Palmer and the officer explains he has a warrant and can either turn himself in at Knox County Jail or the officer would pick him up. The man opted to head to the jail on his own, which Palmer confirmed he did later in the afternoon.
During a stop for lunch at Thomaston Police Department, Palmer submits paperwork from the morning rounds, which includes filing the ticket issued and also placing information in the system about warrants checked so other deputies do not continue to check the same houses for wanted people.
Then it is off to Camden for a K-9 drug search at Bok Amphitheatre. Once in town, a call comes from dispatch of someone reporting a young person at the public landing in a car alone. Upon checking the landing, no vehicle matching the description is discovered and the complaint is closed out.
The town has received several complaints about drug use and sales occurring in the amphitheatre and Police Chief Randy Gagne has requested the county periodically search the park.
When K-9 Jake performs a search, Palmer says, the dog just thinks it's time to play. Jake searches the perimeter of the amphitheatre and does not find any drugs.
When asked if the searches have been successful, Palmer says "it's successful in that the bad guys run away when they see us coming."
The Camden Herald reporter Kim Lincoln can be reached by calling 236-8511 or by email at email@example.com. She spent Wednesday, Aug. 8, as a ride-along passenger for a day shift with Knox County Sheriff's Deputy John Palmer.