Don't wait, consolidate

35

Once upon a time, in a place far away, it was a dark and stormy night. Oops, I guess that doesn’t apply for this column, but it just might apply to our government at many levels, especially with today’s cankerous political bickering amongst idiots. If my English is off, please don’t say anything because my English teacher is still alive and I do not want him to have a heart attack or stroke, although if you asked me that in 1966 my opinion would have greatly differed.

Anyway, many moons ago I wrote a column about consolidating law enforcement agencies, especially in Maine, where we have at least three levels of law enforcement before going to the federal level.

Many towns and cities have their own police force, counties have their sheriffs, who some municipalities rely for their protection, and then there’s the Maine State Police. There are probably other state agencies that have their own law enforcement officers that carry weapons just in case an establishment tries to sell a quarter-pounder a few ounces short.

What I would like to see is state government step up and reduce the cost to the municipalities of Maine instead of passing down the costs to local taxpayers, which the state loves to do. Mainers are brainwashed on the so-called benefits of local control. The sad part about that is much of that push is from government officials with incomes exceeding that of that the average taxpayer.

During my military career I was not only stationed in several states in the United States but also did two tours in Europe and Asia as well. Now I know some would state that the conditions and customs were different there and that is absolutely true. But what I observed was that law enforcement was country-wide for the most part and it seemed to function well. In Maine, do we really need local police, county sheriffs and state police when, in fact, all of them are involved in law enforcement? My opinion is absolutely not and the sad part is that tradition and keeping a government job is more important than saving tax dollars. It’s not like we have to do away with the foot officers that do the patrolling and law enforcing. What we should do away with is a whole bunch of chiefs.

In May of 1972 I was stationed in Heidelberg, West Germany (at that time), when the Baader-Meinhof Gang detonated bombs on Campbell Barracks, which housed the Headquarters, United States Army Europe. A couple of weeks earlier they did the same at a U.S. military base in Frankfurt. As West Germany had a nationwide police force there was pretty much a lockdown of the entire country so the search could begin for the terrorists who committed those crimes. Many were either captured, shot or escaped (probably to East Germany where they had received training from the East German secret police). Although I believe that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies do a wonderful job in capturing criminals, I was really impressed as to what the German police had accomplished in such a short time.

With terrorism spreading around the world like wildfire, I think that it is time individual states begin to consolidate their law enforcement agencies in order to be more effective in the fight against terrorism. This wouldn’t affect national law enforcement agencies like the FBI or federal marshals. I live in Windham on Route 202 and often see local, county, and state law enforcement vehicles with lights flashing and sirens wailing, which means something happened somewhere. The problem with that is sometimes I see a county vehicle going one way while I see a Windham police vehicle going in the opposite direction.

I also have to think by consolidating Maine’s law enforcement agencies there should be some savings for the taxpayers of this state. I see each agency driving for the most part different vehicle models. Each agency also wants their own uniforms in order to be distinct from the others.

Lane Hiltunen of Windham believes the biggest obstacle to consolidating government is big government itself.