What has been common practice among Lincoln and neighboring counties will soon be official. Sheriff Todd Brackett submitted a draft mutual aid agreement to the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners at the board’s Dec. 2 meeting that would enable Knox, Kennebec, Sagadahoc, Waldo, and Lincoln counties to share jurisdiction and resources in less-than-catastrophic events.
“For me, this started back in 1998 when I was police chief of Damariscotta,” Sheriff Todd Brackett said. Through his work with a municipal police unit, Brackett said, gaps in Maine’s law governing mutual aid agreements became apparent. While the sheriff’s office has jurisdiction in each municipality in Lincoln County, municipal police units were unable to aid the sheriff’s office beyond town boundaries.
The gaps extended beyond Lincoln County. According to the law, neighboring counties were unable to come to each other’s aid in less-than-cataclysmic events.
“As we began to expand services and work more closely together, we thought it would be nice if we had a mutual aid agreement with our neighbors,” Brackett said. “We wrote up a mutual aid agreement and presented it to the lawyers, but they said, ‘You can’t do that. There’s no provision for that in the law.'”
There is now. In 2013, the Maine Sheriffs Association worked with the Legislature to successfully change the law governing law enforcement mutual aid agreements. “I had the privilege of working on the language with the legislators,” Brackett said, “but really it was expanding the existing language to include counties.”
With the revised state law intact, the sheriff’s offices of Knox, Sagadahoc, Kennebec, Waldo, and Lincoln counties are now presenting a mutual aid agreement to their county commissioners to make what has already been common practice official.
“This is really just to formalize what is already in practice,” Brackett said. “If we really get in a bind and need help, folks always come to our aid and vice versa.”
Brackett said he receives calls regularly from other counties for resources such as K-9s and accident reconstructionists, among other things.
The mutual aid agreement will, however, clarify liability issues that were previously undefined. Kennebec County and Knox County have already signed off on it.