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Medical Marijuana Dispensaries and Public Safety

suv crashThe Cost of a Marijuana Related Vehicle Accident

Tonight (March 17, 2016) the City of Presque Isle’s Planning Board meets to discuss a variety of issues surrounding the development of a new city ordinance pertaining to medical marijuana dispensaries setting up shop in Presque Isle. I have been asked to appear in order to provide an explanation of the anticipated public safety monetary costs that may be associated with a dispensary. It stands to reason that if a dispensary comes to Presque Isle, there is a greater risk of more people using marijuana in Presque Isle. It also seems reasonable to expect that more people would be driving while under the influence of marijuana, leading to additional law enforcement costs.

The supporters of the legalized marijuana movement like to argue that there are no solid numbers to support exactly how big or small the number of marijuana related intoxicated driving cases there are, which may have some merit. So the question for me this week was how to present a realistic cost to the board without sounding like I’m simply an anti-marijuana cop pulling figures out of thin air just to support my position. As luck would have it – good luck for my presentation and bad luck for the driver and occupant – we had a serious accident early yesterday morning.

A nineteen year old boy, who does not have a valid driver’s license, took his mother’s SUV without permission and picked up his 15 year old friend. According to the 15 year old child, they smoked marijuana together just prior to the accident (paraphernalia supporting the child’s statement was found at the scene scattered around the SUV). Then, as they’re driving about 80 mph, he lost control of the vehicle and flipped the SUV. The good news is the 15 year old child wasn’t seriously injured; the bad news is that the driver was. His head trauma required him to be transported to the hospital.

Let’s examine the monetary costs associated with this incident, keeping in mind that the costs continue to grow. At about 12:17 a.m. on March 16th two police officers were dispatched to the above accident. Moments before, a fire department crew of two firefighters and ambulance crew of two paramedics were dispatched. The police officers pay rates are $18.91 and $19.56 per hour; the firefighters pay rates on a 40 hour work week are $22.82, $20.49, and $17.85 per hour (of course these figures do not include the costs of fringe benefits). One of the responders is an employee of The Aroostook Medical Center and their pay rate is unknown.

One of the police officers spent about two hours on the call, costing taxpayers $39.12.
The other officer spent about four hours on the call, costing taxpayers $75.64
The firefighters and ambulance crew (not including the TAMC employee) spent an average of about one hour on the call costing taxpayers $61.16.
The supervising firefighter spent roughly another hour documenting their response, after they returned to the station costing taxpayers another $22.82.
One of the police officers spent at least another hour documenting his investigation and preparing charges for the driver, costing taxpayers another $19.56.
The other officer will spend at least another hour documenting the traffic accident report, taking into account the possibility it may become a fatal crash report costing taxpayers another $18.91.
There will be a toxicology analysis/report completed by the State of Maine on the drivers blood sample to determine the level of alcohol and types of drugs present in the blood, costing taxpayers $55.00 for the alcohol screen and another $120 for the drug screen.
The fire engine that rolled out and was tied up for almost forty-five minutes at a cost of $182 per hour to run, costing taxpayers about $136.50.

The very conservative running total for this crash so far is about $548.71 to taxpayers but we haven’t even began to discuss the medical piece of this puzzle. Here are some of the costs I don’t know:

The hourly cost of the ambulance at the scene of the crash.
The treatment costs for the driver at The Aroostook Medical Center.
Follow-up medical care for the driver, if he survives.

Some of the community and family related costs associated with this incident are likely to be:

Automotive insurance rate hike.
Legal fees for the driver; the community pays for the prosecutor, judge and their staff – also the driver's attorney if he is indigent.
The jury that may be necessary at trial and the work day those members may lose, minus the nominal fee they are paid to fulfill their jury duty of course.

I haven’t tackled the personal, non-monetary costs associated with a family coming so near to losing a child and the lingering impact of something of that sort. While most of the bulleted points are real costs, some are possible costs depending upon future events like criminal prosecution etc… It would be very easy to get into more abstract costs like diminished services to the rest of the community while these first responders were tied up with this accident, but I will refrain. What is obvious is that one crash due to the use of marijuana is unaffordable to a small community let alone the potential for the human cost.

I don’t know any police chiefs who have an interest in denying their communities additional opportunities for increased revenue or commercial vibrancy; it’s just that the legalization of marijuana does none of that. Every perceived gain is off-set by the harsh reality of unaffordable costs to communities and lives.

- Chief Irwin

Spring Thaw Exposes Winter Trash

TrashThose of you in my generation might remember the television commercials depicting the Native American man dressed in traditional garb standing watch over an American roadway with a tear in his eye, as thoughtless occupants in a vehicle throw their trash onto the highway (links below). The idea that the original inhabitants of this land now had to helplessly watch as people with no regard literally “trash” their homeland. It was such an impactful series of commercials that to this day, littering is on the very short list of most offensive crimes (albeit with little consequence) I know.

There are those who say littering is a component of the “Broken Window Theory,” which basically says little crimes which go unaddressed like a broken window in an abandoned house lead to bigger crimes like breaking all of the windows out and burning the house down. Littering also signifies in some respects that people have stopped caring about their neighborhood or the wider area. They are not invested in the community in which they live and simply don’t care. Apathy spreads, ultimately seeping into the sub-consciousness of those living in these areas. Before anyone understands what happened, the community is in despair and decay is rampant.

Northern Maine and Presque Isle in particular is a beautiful place with natural resources and landscapes the rest of the world only dreams about. However, there are some people who fail to appreciate what this area has to offer and for their own selfish reasons toss their garbage along the roadside without any regard for the rest of us or the land itself. A community like Presque Isle, which is always looking for opportunities to have visitors as tourists, customers, or family and friends can’t afford to permit the ugliness of littering to pervade our existence.

The winter melt always showcases the litter which built up over the winter months only to be hidden by snow. It may seem petty to some but where possible the Presque Isle Police Department will charge any violations we can prove. We understand the diminishing effect this crime has on our community. We also challenge those of you who feel like we do, to get out and help pick up some of the litter left behind. We know it’s not YOUR job just like it’s not OUR job but together we can make a difference in our neighborhoods which is immediate and noticeable not to mention it’s simply the right thing to do. After Officer McLaughlin picked up several bags of trash the other day, she took the attached photo. Believe me, there’s whole lot more out there!

Happy Earth Day everyone. - Chief Irwin

PIPD Officer Involved Shooting Press Release

May 8, 2016

Media Release
Officer Involved Shooting

On May 7, 2016 at about 5:54 p.m., the Presque Isle Police Department responded to multiple calls regarding an individual who was reported to be acting suspiciously. One of those calls indicated that the individual, later identified as Derek J. Sam, 29, of Presque Isle, had a knife and was near the McDonald’s restaurant on Main Street. The caller also indicated the man with the knife appeared to be bleeding.

Officer Lucas Hafford made contact with Mr. Sam in a parking lot near 631 Main Street in Presque Isle. During an armed confrontation with Mr. Sam and, after failing to comply with Officer Hafford’s instructions to drop the knife, Officer Hafford deployed his TASER in an effort to stop Mr. Sam from approaching him with the knife. The TASER was ineffective. Mr. Sam, still armed with the knife, continued to aggressively approach Officer Hafford who, after several more commands to stop and drop the knife, shot and wounded Mr. Sam.

Mr. Sam was immediately transported to The Aroostook Medical Center for treatment and then life flighted to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

The Office of the Attorney General is investigating the use of deadly force.

Injured Puppy Removed from Home

puppyOver the course of the past week and a half or so, there has been an outpouring of concern for the puppy we brought to your attention on February 29th, which had its ears cropped, allegedly without any anesthetic or proper veterinary care. As often times seems to be the case with social media, misinformation creeps into the conversation and continues to evolve without respect for the facts.

There are very different laws pertaining to animal control officers and their authority to act from those pertaining to law enforcement officers. In particular, an animal control officer (ACO) does not have the authority to seize an abused animal without an ex-parte order from a court, while a law enforcement officer does. While it seems counter-intuitive to give police officers, who likely have much less animal abuse related training than an ACO, more authority than an ACO- that is in fact the law in Maine. However, there is nothing preventing an ACO from bringing law enforcement into the investigation and thereby making available a different set of laws permitting law enforcement to seize the dog if probable cause exists to do so. This is where our department stumbled. For reasons that have been identified and rectified, we did not get an officer to the scene in a timely way which prevented us from taking immediate custody of the puppy.

However, today the court ordered that the puppy be removed from the home and we have in fact safely secured the puppy. Aside from the obvious injuries to the puppy’s ears, it appeared to be in good health. My understanding is the Central Aroostook Humane Society has a well-qualified foster home for the puppy.

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(207) 764-4476

43 North St, Presque Isle, ME 04769