Waldoboro police chief says budget cuts weaken service

By Juliette Laaka | Jan 14, 2014
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Police Chief William Labombarde explains the difficulties of cutting two police officers from his staff, while Town Manager John Spear listens during a joint selectmen and budget committee meeting July 18 in Waldoboro.

Waldoboro — Waldoboro Police Chief William Labombarde said his department's ability to solve higher profile cases is threatened due to budget cuts that culminate in the loss of personnel.

The chief said he has lost three officers to their concerns about job security.

"The town has lost good guys, and they lost them because the officers are concerned. This is not a lifestyle, this is how they support their families," he said.

The town has invested a lot in police training, and now the investments are being lost, he said.

Labombarde said recent cases involving animal abuse and burglaries are unsolved because there are not enough resources to dedicate personnel to the investigation of such crimes. Those cases include the death of a cat that was shot with an arrow in December, and a stolen truck that was crashed into Hannaford in October in an attempt to steal an ATM at the store.

"I would love to solve these cases, but I don't have the resources. Unfortunately, they are dead in the water," he said.

Last year's cut of $60,000 to the police department was approved to offset the loss of $106,000 in state revenue sharing. The cut eliminated the sole detective position in the department, Labombarde said.

In November, voters approved $586,884 for the department. The cost would rise to a little more than $600,000 if a detective position was reinstated, the chief said.

Labombarde will submit his budget proposal for the department to the town manager Jan. 22. " I will ask for the position to be reinstated, but I am not optimistic," he said.

Clearance rates, he said, are important to victims of crimes, those who want justice. When he started in 2007, the previous year's rate was about 9 percent. When the detective position was added, the town's numbers reached the state average, about 44 percent, he said. He expects that number to drop again.

Waldoboro needs a different model of policing as opposed to more affluent communities like Camden and Rockport, he said. He cited three homicides in town in a 10-year period.

"We have a high number of crimes for the size of our town," Labombarde said. Crimes committed in the area primarily stem from substance abuse and poverty, he said.

With three patrolmen, a sergeant, and a school resource officer, Labombarde said he cannot necessarily add the duties of investigation to officers.

"We respond to 6,000 calls for service a year," he said, "we have cases everyday that need immediate response."

The Lincoln County Sheriff's Department aids when needed with crimes against children, but Labombarde said they have their own cases to manage.

With the loss in personnel, service will suffer, he said. "But all you hear is cut, cut, cut."

Courier Publications' reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at jlaaka@courierpublicationsllc.com.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Charlotte Davenhill | Jan 15, 2014 09:25

We're lucky to have Chief Labombarde, who understands the arithmetic of running an effective police department and who does not seem to be afraid to tell the truth. We do have a disproportionate share of misery here -- I've come to think it's because a tiny, but unaccountably effective number of people simply expect -- or somehow benefit from it being this way. "This is Waldoboro," they will tell you. For the good of us all, and especially for our kids, IT'S TIME WE CHANGE WHAT THAT MEANS.

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