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Project February 27, 2020

Are County Law Enforcement Officers Being Held Accountable for Sexual Harassment?

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A Maine State Police cruiser is shown outside the Penobscot County Jail on May 12, 2020. Image by Natalie Williams/Bangor Daily News

In 2017, the top elected officials in Maine's westernmost county took a rare vote to ask the governor to remove their sheriff from office. After conducting an internal investigation, they determined that then-Sheriff Wayne Gallant had sent photos of his erect penis to employees and solicited sex from them. 

But no one had the authority to place the sheriff on leave during that investigation, allowing him and his chief deputy to allegedly wipe their devices clean. Gallant resigned but kept his law enforcement certification. The chief deputy got a new job in a nearby county.

Two hours away, in Penobscot County, a jail supervisor had been sending explicit photos of himself to female coworkers and inmates for about a decade, according to a Bangor Daily News investigation. He wasn't alone. Many others at the jail were also alleged to have sexually harassed their coworkers. They kept their jobs. The women left.

The Maine Criminal Justice Academy, which certifies officers, has never faulted a police officer for sexual harassment.

Bangor Daily News seeks to understand what is happening statewide to address sexual harassment within the ranks of county law enforcement.

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