Public Safety Commissioner, Attorney General talk with lawmakers on police tactics, race

Published: Jun. 24, 2020 at 6:53 PM EDT
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Police tactics, digital surveillance, and race were just a few of the topics covered today during a meeting of the Maine Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

Maine Public Safety Commissioner and the Attorney General appeared before lawmakers who had called for the meeting after a state trooper claimed in a federal lawsuit that intelligence was being illegally gathered and stored by a state police agency.

The Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee met for more than seven hours.

Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck began the meeting by discussing the function of the Maine Information and Analysis Center or MIAC.

"The function of the center is to collect, gather, and analyze information before sending it to different agencies."

Some lawmakers questioned the center, saying the process has led to racial profiling, referring to a whistleblower lawsuit alleging they violate safeguards with illegal surveillance.

The ACLU of Maine is calling for a full investigation into their practices.

"I'd really like to see them and law enforcement in the state generally doing more to collect and analyze data about the impact law enforcement has on communities of color because that's something that's critically important, and it's missing," Zachary Heiden, ACLU Legal Director.

"I do believe there is a process in place where it's not just allowing people to loosely send in inflammatory style activity reports that would be blindly forwarded on to somebody else," said Sauschuck.

Sauschuck was asked by Representative Rachel Talbot Ross if he thinks there is racism in law enforcement in the state.

"Yes, it does exist," said Sauschuck.

He says he hopes adopting policies and procedures and creating more diverse panels will help in the future.

Both Sauschuck and Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey admitted some panels weren't diverse enough.

Frey even saying he will correct a data collection and profiling bill to include more community outreach to those affected by profiling and make it easier for racial profiling to be reported.

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