Wiscasset’s new police chief has arrived. Jeffrey Lange was sworn in and began duty on Monday, May 16; he brings nearly 30 years of public safety experience to his new role as head of the Wiscasset Police Department.
In his career, Lange has worked on gang and violent crime investigations in the metropolitan area of Columbus, Ohio; ferreted out suspected terrorists in the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan; and navigated the politics of small police departments in rural Maine.
His career path led him to Wiscasset; Lange was hired as police chief in late April. It is exactly where he wants to be, he said.
In his new role, Lange said he is committed to building community partnerships and community programming, similar to the initiatives he was involved in while interim chief of the Paris Police Department.
Among those programs was Project Save Me, a drug abuse outreach program based on the Gloucester, Mass. police department’s Operation Angel, which connects individuals struggling with addiction to treatment resources without the threat of incarceration.
The collaborative effort between law enforcement and community groups in Oxford County is similar to the Operation HOPE (Heroin Opiate Prevention Effort) program law enforcement agencies have been working to develop in Lincoln County. Lange looks forward to contributing to the initiative.
While with the Paris Police Department, Lange introduced the Internet Exchange Location Program, which enabled individuals who purchased items off of craigslist.org or other websites to make the exchange at the police department.
He was also active in a domestic violence task force and a program which brought law enforcement officials and the elderly together to prevent elder abuse.
Lange hopes to not only introduce and contribute to similar programming in Wiscasset, but also to expand on it. He has experience as a grant writer and intends to work on grants to augment the department and hopefully establish summer programs for kids, he said.
Lange’s career in public safety began in 1989 as a volunteer firefighter, corrections officer, and reserve police officer in New Jersey. He moved to Ohio in 1996 to work for the Columbus Division of Police, which served a metropolitan area riddled with gang activity and violent crime.
He quickly rose through the ranks to the position of detective, and worked in the special victims bureau. According to Lange, the role of law enforcement is not just to apprehend and prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual assaults, but also to support the victims and provide them with resources to aid in their recovery.
Lange went on to work as a civilian contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense, spending three years in Afghanistan and Iraq. His qualifications and experience as a gang investigator were qualities the Department of Defense was looking for in the war against terrorist networks.
After three years of deployment and an additional year working state-side for the Department of Defense, Lange sought out a return to law enforcement. “We have time to do things the right way, and show empathy for the victims we deal with,” Lange said.
Lange joined the Paris Police Department in 2013 and has served as interim chief since April 2015.
He leaves the Paris Police Department one month before voters go to the polls to determine if they will maintain the police department or discontinue it in favor of the sheriff’s office. The debate in Paris over maintaining the police department has been ongoing for years with the issue brought before voters several times, Lange said.
“It’s always going to be a debate in small towns,” Lange said.
When Wiscasset voters were asked the same question at the 2015 annual town meeting, the strong support voters showed for the Wiscasset Police Department factored into Lange’s decision to accept the position, he said.
While the question of discontinuing the Wiscasset Police Department will not appear before voters on June 14, the question of whether to maintain the position of school resource officer and use capital reserve funds to purchase a new police cruiser will.
Lange is hopeful voters will approve both items. The school resource officer is essential not only to community policing but also to preventing tragedies, he said. Schools have one of the largest populations in one location in town, he said. It is only natural for an officer to be stationed there.
“You can’t put a price on preventing a tragic incident at school,” Lange said. “With a school resource officer, that’s what you’re doing.” The school resource officer also goes hand-in-hand with building community partnerships, he said.
The Wiscasset Police Department’s fleet of two vehicles has been reduced to one due to a recent accident involving the department’s Dodge Charger. Voters will decide whether to use an amount not to exceed $30,000 from the capital reserve account to purchase a new one.
In 2015, voters rejected the purchase of a new vehicle. Due to mechanical difficulties with one of the vehicles and the cost of repair, the contingency fund was used mid-fiscal year to purchase a new one.
The lack of a patrol fleet is limiting the Wiscasset Police Department in its ability to investigate and respond to critical incidents, Lange said. Every time an officer needs to use a personal vehicle for a work-related purpose, liability is created for the town, he said.
While the debate surrounding the police department may continue, “you’re not going to get the same level of personal service anywhere else,” Lange said. “These guys are invested in this town.”
It is an investment Lange now shares with his fellow officers at the Wiscasset Police Department. Lange is planning on making Wiscasset his full-time home.
“I want to make it known that I’m approachable. My door is always open if someone wants to talk. I will listen to their concerns and their ideas,” Lange said.
The Wiscasset town office will host a swearing-in ceremony for Lange on Monday, May 23 at 6 p.m.