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Rockland police chief issues statement following firing of two officers

Officers appeal their dismissals
By Stephen Betts | Sep 30, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts

Rockland — Rockland Police Chief Chris Young issued a statement Sept. 30 in connection to the firing of two officers last week.

The chief has not identified the two who were fired, but The Courier-Gazette has determined the two were Officers Addison Cox and Mike Rolerson.

Joseph Piccone, the business agent for the Teamsters Union that represents Rockland officers, said the two have filed a grievance, appealing their dismissals. Piccone said the appeal argues that the chief did not have cause to terminate their employment.

The Lincoln County Sheriff's Office conducted the internal investigation. The Rockland chief then issued termination notices.

The Maine Warden Service conducted the criminal investigation. No criminal charges have been filed, as of Sept. 30.

District Attorney Natasha Irving would not comment on details of the allegation, but said she appointed Assistant District Attorney Michael Dumas from Sagadahoc County to review the case to determine if criminal charges will be filed.

The allegation is that there could have been the crime of cruelty to an animal. The dismissal was based on an unspecified policy violation.

While not discussing details of the case, Young posted a statement Sept. 30 on Facebook.

"I wanted to take a moment and speak about the recent events involving two Rockland Police Officers and their termination from the agency. I understand that many of you want to know the details around the termination of two Rockland Police Officers.

"I know that demands for police transparency are coming. I want you all to know that I agree with those demands and understand the frustration of not knowing exactly what transpired to cause two officers to be terminated."

"If it were up to me, you would have those details; you would know exactly what occurred and how it was dealt with. The reality of the situation is that Maine’s laws relating to employee discipline do not allow those details to be released at this time. I follow the law."

"Generally speaking, if an officer is alleged to have violated departmental policies, we would investigate that allegation. If the allegation could lead to serious consequences for the officer if true, I may choose to have an outside agency conduct the internal investigation to determine if departmental policies were violated. If there were an allegation of criminal conduct, I may, and likely would, request an outside agency conduct the criminal investigation concurrently.

"In many cases, it would make sense to have any investigations be conducted by outside agencies who have had little to no contact with the officer involved. Having outside entities investigate allegations of serious misconduct helps to ensure a fair and impartial investigation, for both the officer and the community."

"If the allegation involved conduct which could cause an officer to be de-certified by the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, Chiefs of Police are required by law to report that to the Academy. There, the Academy’s Board of Trustees review the matter, and can choose to take action on the officer’s Academy certification. A tremendous amount of power is given to those who wear a badge and are tasked with protecting their communities; it’s a power that I do not take lightly.

"I’m asking you to trust that, if there were an allegation of police misconduct, I would take it very seriously and any investigation would be conducted appropriately, always placing public safety and community trust at the fore front," the chief concluded in his statement.

Officer Cox was with the Rockland department since 2016. He served earlier in the Marines in Romania and Afghanistan. In 2017, he was one of three Rockland officers who received the department’s “Meritorious Service Award" for thwarting a kidnapping in September 2016.

In 2018 he received the “Life Saving Award” from the Maine Chiefs of Police Association for his actions Jan. 31, 2018, in saving a man who had suffered a severe cut following an assault.

In 2017, he was hailed as the hero of wild animals. The officer helped return a baby raccoon to the woods, and helped a skunk that had gotten its head stuck in a peanut butter jar.

Officer Michael Rolerson has been with the Rockland department since 2018. he was previously enlisted in the Marines, serving in the Pacific and deploying to the Helmand province in Afghanistan.

A Facebook message was sent to Rolerson Tuesday morning. Cox could not be reached for comment.

Officers who are terminated have the right to appeal through a union grievance process.

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Comments (2)
Posted by: T A Schwab | Sep 30, 2020 12:59

Chief Young’s statement has given me confidence that he is doing the right thing.  So we wait to see.

Posted by: George Terrien | Sep 30, 2020 10:44

An excellent, responsible, and for me at this still-early stage of the investigation, a fully transparent presentation of the situation, Chief Young.  Well done!  Based on what Mr. Betts has (and I believe conscientiously) reported, I am confident that we, citizens of Rockland and the world, will take pride in the way our City is handling this most unfortunate event.

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