August 20, 2019

Maine Warden Service Needs More Women and Baiting Deer?

While the problems at the Maine Warden Service (MWS) continue to fester, much because government and law enforcement have opted to “investigate” themselves, denying any wrongdoing and to hell with anyone who thinks they might have, writers are offering their own suggestions of how to remedy the Maine Warden Service’s problems.

First, one writer suggests that all these issues would go away if the MWS would just hire more women. Let me understand this. It seems, according to an expose filed by the Portland Press Herald, the MWS is carrying on some illegal acts during their undercover investigations, may have colluded with Animal Planet’s television crew filming of “North Woods Law,” to embellish reality, and refuses to provide right-to-know documents or the ones provided are heavily redacted. Even if, all things considered, women are capable and qualified to do the exact same job as a male warden, I need some assistance in understanding how these actions of the MWS will all go away if more women were on the force. Have I missed something about women in the past 50 years? Or better yet, have I missed something about men?

Another writer, who claims to be a big fan of “North Woods Law,” says that he has issues with camera crews following law enforcement around taking pictures. My question then would be how can one expect a reality TV show about the Maine Warden Service, a law enforcement organization, if there are no cameras rolling? Are they then supposed to witness the action then go back to the studio and try to recreate it?

The same author, evidently believes that the same issues I’ve mentioned above would not have taken place if wardens hadn’t been active in campaigning against the last proposed anti-hunting bear referendum. In addition, somehow this author doesn’t even suspect, as Maine humorist Tim Sample used to say, that bear baiting and deer baiting have nothing in common with the exception that bait is used. Somehow, baiting bears, if allowed, should then be permitted to other species. For $100 I could let him buy a clue and provide a little understanding as to why bears are baited in the first place and deer are not. However, I doubt that would help, because throughout the entire bear referendum campaign, it was repeated, like a broken record, that baiting of bears is a necessary tool in order to better control the population of bears. Hint: Maine does not have a deer population problem, that is, too many deer. If they did, they might allow baiting deer if it was deemed a necessary tool to control deer populations.

But that’s not the issue for this guy is it?

Let me repeat. The MWS is being accused of questionable tactics by undercover agents and withholding FOIA documents. Suggestions for remedies, we have just discovered, include hiring more women and not allowing wardens to campaign in referendums that would severely impact their jobs. In addition, if baiting bears would stop, these problems would go away.

But the ignorance grows. This author has suggested that nobody would be paying much attention to the MWS if they hadn’t botched the search and rescue efforts of the woman who wandered off the Appalachian Trail and wasn’t found until later. Search for the lost hiker began in July of 2013, was called off about 8 or 9 days later and her remains were finally located in October of 2015. The author appears to indicate that because the hiker’s body was found, “less than 3 miles from where she went missing,” the MWS was inept in their search effort and tactics. Obviously the author knows nothing about how large an area “less than 3 miles” would be in a circumference around the point where searchers THOUGHT the hike MIGHT have gone missing. I also wonder if the author has ever participated in a search and rescue with the MWS?

I’m not sure I understand the need to dump all over the MWS and to exploit a war between an administration and a news agency, to promote equal rights for women and faulting the MWS for doing a difficult job. Perhaps it’s more just a dislike of the MWS or something. If anybody has issues with the MWS then take the initiative to address those issues and not use an unrelated incident to badger the Service for some other reason.

The issues appear simple. Maine needs to review its undercover sting policies and release documents legally requested. This will never happen so long as the government agency investigates itself. But for certain, these issues will not go away if more women are hired and if we can only ban bear baiting.

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Nightmare Continues: More Accusations Against Same MWS Undercover Agent

The Portland Press Herald has another story today about another “sting” operation that took place in 2013 and 2014 in York County, that involved the same Maine Warden Service undercover officer who has been the focus of “controversial” tactics to catch “criminals” (predisposed to crime?) in Aroostook and Oxford Counties.

There have been calls for an “investigation” into what’s going on as well as a look into the written policies, which evidently are a secret, that regulate the behavior of undercover Maine wardens. The problem with such an investigation is that it is likely to be the government investigating the government, and we all know what that outcome will be.

It is my guess, without having the policies in front of me and judging from previous court rulings, that the undercover agent is following the policies. Perhaps it’s time for an examination of those policies and offer some changes.

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Maine’s Warden Service Undercover Tactics Raise Questions

*Scroll Down to bottom of page for updates and information*

I really haven’t wanted to touch this story with a ten-foot pole…for obvious and not so obvious reasons. However, it is time to weigh in with questions, of which there seems to be few, if any, answers.

Of late, the uproar was reignited when Portland Press Herald investigative reporter, Colin Woodard, filed his report in the Sunday newspaper about a sting operation in the small, northern Maine town of Allagash, that took two years of undercover work by a Maine Warden Service agent and yielded basically nothing.

I will not offer comment about the details of the operation because there is little known about what actually took place, including all the ins and outs, approvals by whom, etc. I can comment on what can be found in writing.

We don’t know how much the entire operation cost – the commissioner would not give that information – that netted charges for illegally attaching a tag to a deer, poaching of a single partridge, and drinking alcohol, but common sense should tell us the decision to undertake an investigation of this sort was a bad one – or at least to continue the sting for two years.

Also at issue are the “policies” that govern the actions of undercover wardens in cases like this. The Press Herald provides a copy of these policies that date back to 2005. Upon request for the latest version, according to Woodard, what he got was a redacted copy. People want to know why? What’s to hide?

It appears as though a lot of people are angry and left with a lot of unanswered questions about this sting operation and that the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), which oversees the Maine Warden Service (MWS), isn’t answering any questions.

It is my understanding that when a decision is being made about whether to implement an undercover program, the determining factor is that the target must have a “predisposition” to poach game, i.e. break the law. Of course, such a prerequisite is, perhaps deliberately, left undefined and value laden from the perspective of the one who ultimately makes the decision.

Upon examination of the investigative reporting linked to above, Woodard gives readers an example of the request given to undertake an undercover investigation. For an agent to request an undercover operation they obviously have a hankering to do so and thus, as can be seen in the request, it becomes a sales pitch which should leave one to question how much such a request ought to be watered down…or maybe not.

The warden at the center of the covert action has a track record of trouble in other sting operations. In a separate report by the Press Herald, the same warden embedded himself to “sting” a registered Maine guide. According to the Press Herald report, “he enticed other individuals to commit wildlife crimes.” The Court, in finding the target not guilty, said the undercover warden, “created numerous instances of crime … participated in the criminal activity, and debased the integrity of Maine law enforcement in the process.” (Note: If the agent was allowed to carry out behavior of readily breaking laws and “enticing” others to do it with him for 10 years, one has to wonder to what degree, if any, he would be responsible for his actions in this latest sting.)

Perhaps the first question that needs to be answered is, to what level does a “predisposition to commit crime” need to rise that makes a target worthy of the time and money and the potential for criminal yield?

Another question might be, in fielding the request for an undercover sting, are the previous actions and results in court, considered by the person or persons making the decision to undertake a sting?

A third question should be, was the undercover operation being reported and updated on a regular basis to the powers in charge. If not, it should have been. If so, why wasn’t the sting called off once it became clear that return on investment was going to be poor. Is this a series of bad decision-making or a case of getting away with it in the past, so what that heck?

Question four, did it really require 30 game wardens, backed up by Maine State Police, to arrest one man and confiscate a 91-year-old-woman’s canned vegetables and moose meat, in a tiny town with only one road in and the same road out?

We now are hearing that state senator Paul Davis, who sits on the Joint Standing Committee of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, wants a meeting with the MDIFW commissioner to get answers. As was reported in this article, MDIFW is working on a statement about this incident. More than likely it will involve at least one, if not more, smooth-talking lawyers in order to cover up what needs to be covered up.

All of this should bring common sense citizens, at least those with some sort of moral compass and not blindly in love with law enforcement, thinking they can do no wrong, to question the need for law enforcement to break the laws they are sworn to uphold in hopes of creating or catching a “criminal.” If a person breaks the law, the person breaks the law. Arrest them for that act. One even has to question the need to allow law breaking for several years, sometimes resulting in more game poached than is legally taken, for the purpose of catching more people and making more charges. Is it really in the best interest of everyone to bait and trap people, the most of whom are easily influenced and under the right circumstances could be talked into anything? This is one of the troubles that result when undercover agents are allowed to go outside the law to make somebody else break the law so they can be arrested. When you consider that some agents provide alcohol to a sting target. Is this so their judgement becomes impaired and can more easily be influenced to break the law?

Illegal undercover operations are nothing new. I read about these kinds of fish and game undercover stings all across the country. Just about all of them that involve agents breaking the law to trap a “lawbreaker” end up being tossed out of court, i.e. a whole lot of time and money, all the resources that could be used for more productive things, down the tubes.

It appears to me, that in this case, whether it was the process or the decision making, or a combination of both, things were allowed to get beyond sense and sensibility and the result appears to speak for itself. Outcomes, such as the one at hand, do nothing for the image of the law enforcement and certainly destroys any level of trust and support that is often times needed to uphold the law. Is this not a pretty backward approach? Law enforcement needs to do their job but they can’t have the power to break the laws the rest of us are required to abide by, in order to find a criminal. It shouldn’t have to be this way. This is law enforcement out of control.

As far as the television crew from Animal Planet’s, North Woods Law, being on hand to film the mini, military invasion of Allagash, Maine, I’ll not even attempt to address that issue. Some think their presence embellished the entire bust. Readers will have to decide.

PPH has provided a chain of emails concerning its request for email from the MDIFW. This is incredible to say the least!

 

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Update: Operation Something Bruin

Back in April of this year, I went against my normal self-imposed censorship of reporting on poaching cases and shared with readers what appeared, in my eyes, to be abuse by law enforcement, entrapment, corruption and a display of practicing one’s profession above the rule of law. Here’s an update.

“…a federal jury determined the first three men on trial were not guilty of any felony charges.”
“…the officers could soon be the ones in the hot seat, accused of breaking laws to make their case.”
“A News 13 investigation in May of this year found North Carolina wildlife officer Chad Arnold killed two bears and a Georgia officer shot two others.”
“News 13 found Arnold[law enforcement] killed one bear in Georgia while he was alone in the woods and another undersized cub in North Carolina, which is illegal.”
“Southard testified he gave Arnold permission to kill bears in order to make cases against the hunters.”<<<Read More>>>

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