PITTSFIELD – Last week, four officers with the Pittsfield Police Department took a vote of no confidence in their chief.
The vote against Police Chief Harold “Pete” Bickmore’s leadership took place shortly after the chief reportedly ignored self-quarantine orders.
“When the chief who is supposed to be the leader of a department and lead by example flouts the medically accepted practices of quarantine and returns to works and potentially exposed employees to this disease, it’s kind of the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” said Paul Gaspar, executive director of the Maine Association of Police, the bargaining agent for officers working in Pittsfield.
A March 20 letter to the town states Bickmore arrived at work with a sore throat and cold and was ordered by the town’s fire chief and safety officer to get tested for coronavirus. He did so but then returned to work, instead of heading home for two days of quarantine while awaiting his test results as hospital staff had ordered.
The department’s four full-time officers took the unanimous vote of no confidence on March 27, Gaspar said. He added there have been a string of complaints that stretch back to basically when Bickmore was hired in 2017.
The police chief’s attorney said most of the complaints were dealt with in an independent investigation ordered by the town and completed in November.
“In fact, there is five reserve officers who did not involve themselves or did not partake of this vote of no confidence,” said John Richardson, a Portland attorney. “These are disgruntled employees who had a very scathing report issued against them by this independent investigator.”
He later added, “They’ve taken the last step they can possibly take, which is a vote of no confidence, which is frankly meaningless.”
The department’s union rep disagrees.
“We just don’t agree with the findings that this is somehow retaliatory,” Gaspar said. “We 100 percent disagree. We think all the issues that were brought forward to the town were legitimate and needed to be addressed and the investigation, quite frankly, did not accomplish that.”
Both are waiting to hear from town leaders, who declined to comment.