Opportunity knocked, Bridgton police chief leaving for Windham

FOR NOT MUCH LONGER — Bridgton Police Chief Kevin Schofield stands beside the door to his office, which he’ll be leaving on April 10 after four years to become police chief in Windham.

FOR NOT MUCH LONGER — Bridgton Police Chief Kevin Schofield stands beside the door to his office, which he’ll be leaving on April 10 after four years to become police chief in Windham.

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

When he first came to Bridgton four years ago, Police Chief Kevin Schofield figured he’d probably be retiring here.

Then opportunity knocked.

He’d heard that Rick Lewson was retiring as chief of the Windham Police Department, which is three times the size of Bridgton’s with its own detective unit, drug enforcement investigator, canine unit, honor guard and school resource officer.

With still a decade or so to go before hanging up the badge, Schofield, 48, couldn’t resist the challenge, or the opportunity. He applied for the job, and on March 24 the Windham Town Council confirmed Schofield’s appointment from a pool of 50 candidates. His last day in Bridgton will be Friday, April 10, and he’ll start in Windham on April 21.

It will be his second chief’s job, after serving 21 years with the Brunswick Police Department, leaving as commander, and four years before that as a patrol and school resource officer for the Topsham Police Department. His starting salary will be $76,355, about $12,000 more than he makes in Bridgton. He’ll oversee a force of 27 officers, compared with Bridgton’s eight-person department.

Considering that Brunswick has 49 police officers, Schofield feels up to the challenge of leading a larger and more diversified department. But he said his parting from Bridgton will still be bittersweet.

“Working in a smaller town has helped me in so many ways, because I got to know the people and I got to go on a lot of calls, at least a couple a week,” Schofield said. “That’s the hard thing about leaving. People like to see their police officers on the street.”

Selectmen Chairman Bernie King anticipates it will take three to six months to find Schofield’s replacement, and that the process will be similar to when Schofield was hired to replace former Police Chief Dave Lyons. “I liked Kevin. He was very professional and personable. I’m sorry to see him go, and wish him the best,” King said.

An interim chief will need to take over until a new chief can be hired, King said, although whether that person will come from inside or outside the department remains to be seen. Selectmen will discuss the process at their next meeting on Tuesday, April 7. King said there will be a hiring committee that will include someone from the community and perhaps a retired police chief.

Proud of progress

Schofield said he’s proud of the technological improvements that have come to the Bridgton Police Department during his tenure. Working with Police Officer Mac McCormick, Schofield has secured an impressive amount of grants to cover the expense of outfitting all of the cruisers with laptops ($35,000), cameras ($16,000) and scanners ($2,000). Other grants have paid for bulletproof vests and extra patrols.

“We’ve gotten over $60,000 in four years, and now every Bridgton Police Officer has every tool that any other police officer in Maine has, including the largest cities and the Maine State Police,” Schofield said. “I’m very proud of that.”

There’ve been some bumps along the way, Schofield acknowledged, like when Bridgton gave up its local dispatching center to contract for dispatching through Cumberland County — a change he disagreed with — but in each case he said, “We’ve made it work well.” Another rough patch came over objections to posting mug shots of people who’d been arrested on the department’s Facebook page. Schofield defended the practice, but was forced to remove them from the page.

The list of positives is much larger, he said, citing other departmental improvements. The department’s offices have been remodeled, old records have been purged and new recordkeeping has been organized. Recently, with the retirement of Lt. Pete Madura, the department went back to having a sergeant instead (T.J. Reese), who will take on more shifts as well as supervisory duties.

As for parting advice, Schofield said he firmly believes Bridgton needs to hire one more officer. That’s because it’s all too often that there’s only one officer available to respond to a call. On many types of calls, such as domestics and serious accidents, two police officers are needed, he said.

Overall, however, he said, “The department is in a very solid position now, and the officers are all hardworking folks who care for the community.”

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