August 25, 2019

Press Banding Together on “North Woods Lawless”

After the dog and pony show in Maine of an act of government investigating government, members of the media appear to be sticking together. After all, loss of right to know information, renders their occupations a bit more centrally controlled by government. Perhaps that is what is intended when we are witness to the actions of the Maine Government using smoke and mirrors to make people think they got everything under control, while continuing to stall all efforts to release documents about events that took place during undercover raids and in conjunction with the reality television show, “North Woods Law.”

Rooks: Denials won’t solve undercover issues at Maine Warden Service

Editorial: North Woods Lawless

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Maine Warden Service: Taking Their Ball and Going Home

According to the Bangor Daily News (BDN), after a paragraph by paragraph rebuttal to a newspaper article, read before a hand-selected group of “lawmakers,” accusing the Maine Warden Service (MWS) of improper undercover tactics and refusing to release documents requested under the Freedom of Information Access Law (FOIA), the head of the MWS announced it was suspending all undercover operations and blamed the press for forcing their hand.

Col. Joel Wilkinson, of the MWS, said it was necessary to stop all undercover operations to protect his officers and the integrity of the department. He pointed specifically to the issue of the Maine Sunday Telegram (Portland Press Herald) publishing a photograph of the undercover agent who seems to be the focus of the newspaper’s investigation.

I have to agree that releasing that picture was a pretty irresponsible thing to do, stupid too, if for no other reason than to protect the man and his family from the psychos we hear and read about everyday. One also has to wonder if the Portland Press Herald (PPH) did that intentionally to destroy the integrity of the MWS. Are they targeting the LePage Administration?

However, I have made it clear, that even though the Maine Courts have scrutinized all of these cases, and did not find the MWS guilty of breaching any undercover guidelines, the rules regulating undercover operations for all Maine law enforcement need a review and the elimination of the allowances for law enforcement to deliberately break any laws the rest of us are expected to adhere to, for the sole purpose of catching a thief. Trained or not trained, no law enforcement officer should be permitted to break the laws on the books in hopes of making an arrest, with perhaps the exception of saving a life.

For those who have been following my reports and commentary, where does this leave Maine citizens in answer to questions surrounding what appears to be stonewalling by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) and the MWS of FOIA document requests?

All that the BDN chose to report in regards to the document information request was to say that the MWS responded, in explanation, that they would only respond to requests for information that were done in writing, out of fear that any verbal communication would be twisted or taken out of context and used in ways, “to benefit the intent of the article.” For my purposes, this is not an acceptable or a sufficient answer to why the PPH has not received the documents they have requested – at least those in writing.

In addition, the MDIFW/MWS expressed concern over what might happen to information exchanged verbally, fearing it would only benefit the newspapers, that same concern exists in the reverse. I refuse to use verbal communication for very valuable information and will only accept it in writing because reports stemming from unrecorded verbal communications become a he said – she said argument. I do understand the concern of the MWS and I believe it is the prerogative of the MWS to seek all requests in writing.

To me, it appears the stonewalling continues and the actions and reactions of all parties involved suggest that the MWS is deflecting attention away from the FOIA legal issue and putting it on the Service’s desire to terminate undercover operations as a form of retribution toward the newspaper via manipulation of public opinion.

The PPH gave the MDIFW and the MWS a convenient opportunity to employ such a tactic when they decided to publish a photograph of the undercover MWS agent. That wasn’t too brilliant a move – retaliatory maybe, but not smart.

I think the MWS jumped on this opportunity to play on the public’s perception, as any well-greased governmental agency would do, and by doing such can draw more attention away from perhaps a real screw up in refusing or delaying the release of right-to-know information. One can only speculate.

How anyone chooses to view this entire operation, for sure, nobody wins. The only victory that citizens can hope for is a correction and resolution to the FOIA issue, in hopes that it will help to preserve that man-given right into the future – for whatever it is worth.

Don’t hold your breath!

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Maine Newspaper Continues Attack on Maine Warden Service Undercover Tactics

Once again the Portland Press Herald has published an article describing others who were targets of the Maine Warden Service (MWS) undercover investigations, claiming they were wrongfully treated. Why is there no real focus on a more serious situation in which it appears the MWS stonewalled and refused to send information to the Press Herald requested through FOIA laws?

Whether Maine citizens like it or not, in all of these cases being written about in the news, the undercover investigations and the subsequent charges leveled against many people, have all gone through the Court System. We know of one case where the judge made a statement that the tactics were questionable, but, they were within the laws.

This week a dog and pony show will likely begin to “investigate” the accusations being made by the Press Herald against the MWS and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) – a case of government investigating government. Governments are incapable of self-policing.

If what has come out in the Press about the tactics being used by undercover agents is remotely accurate, it is my opinion that legal tactics need to be changed. If any citizen has a “predisposition” (to give or furnish a tendency or inclination) to commit a crime – a term used to describe a precursor to actually formulating an undercover sting – why is there a need to bait them into doing it? Whatever happened to the simple infiltration of a gang only to observe and record behavior for later prosecution? Isn’t it worth it? Is there no fame, glory and money in this? Because it is “legal” (as recognized by the Court) is it right? Did the people of Maine and/or the Maine Legislature approve the “legal” guidelines to be employed during undercover operations? Do other branches of law enforcement follow the same guidelines or do they craft their own?

If Maine people don’t like the use of the tactics being described to them via the Press, it’s time to change those laws. It’s somewhat silly to keep harping about tactics, seemingly allowed by the Courts, without offering any solutions. We are told we are a government by and of the people. Is this not true?

So, is the Press Herald head hunting? Makes you wonder, although we do know they have created a hot topic and hot topics sell copies and puts money in the coffers. The governor thinks his administration is being targeted.

Why then, isn’t the Press Herald more heavily pursuing their own accusations that the MWS and MDIFW withheld and is still withholding information available to the public? We know what the law says about our supposed right to access public information. Perhaps they are pursuing that as I write. If the Press Herald is head hunting the LePage Administration, isn’t non compliance of an FOIA law a better opportunity than chasing butterflies?

It would seem to me that any investigation should be focused on FOIA actions and that if the Press and the people have issues with how law enforcement carries out their mission, they should work to get it changed.

The people have created themselves a tightrope to walk. After 9/11, Law Enforcement seemingly can do no wrong and even when they do, they are still glorified for doing it. The people cannot allow any government or law enforcement to trample on their rights, out of fear for any reason. When we fear government, including law enforcement, what then is there of value in any of our perceived rights given by God or men?

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Lawmakers to hold hearings on Maine Warden Service undercover operations

Lawmakers who oversee the Maine Warden Service will hold hearings in the next two weeks to review the agency’s conduct, following reports by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram about controversial undercover operations and raids conducted by wardens in York and Aroostook counties.

Source: Lawmakers to hold hearings on Maine Warden Service undercover operations – The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

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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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Maine Game Wardens get new “spotting scopes”

Warden Blanchard hopes this tool will help them catch more small violations, to prevent them from becoming a larger problem.”It’s in order to protect the population as a whole. So you protect one, and hopefully you protect more by doing that,” said Blanchard.

Source: Maine Game Wardens get new “spotting scopes”

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Maine game wardens host regional conference on poaching

*Editor’s Note* – To make such a claim that the same number of deer are tagged in Maine legally as are taken illegally, requires some serious proof. First, the Maine Warden Service should define exactly what, in their professional standards, “poaching” is, and how that is used to illegally kill deer. Then, provide something more for proof other than “we estimate.”

Poaching is a crime and should not be tolerated. However, if law enforcement is looking to play on the emotions of the public by sensationalizing and embellishing game poaching data for political and/or economic reasons, they are no better than the poachers themselves.

Last year In Maine 25,000 deer were tagged legally. Wardens estimate nearly that many were taken illegally. Poachers will go out at night, use bait or exceed limits, all against the law. But it is not unique to Maine.

Source: Maine game wardens host regional conference on poaching

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Maine Warden Service searching for missing campers in Piscataquis County 

ELLIOTSVILLE TOWNSHIP, Maine — Game wardens are searching for two missing people from Newport, according to the Maine Warden Service. Michael Chapman, 40, and Kelli Macfarlin, 38, were camping by Little Wilson Falls in Piscataquis County with six other people when they were last seen Monday, according to Cpl. John […]
Source: Maine Warden Service searching for missing campers in Piscataquis County — Piscataquis — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine

Eliotsville

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Maine Warden Service Opposes Question 1

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Maine Game Wardens responded to two different Search and Rescue calls in northern and southern Maine on Wednesday, July 23.

Press Release from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:

DEBOULLIE TOWNSHIP – JULY 23, 2014: Mark Nadeau, 46 of Gorham, ME, was camping near Deboullie Lake with his son Nathaniel Nadeau age 16, and a friend Garrick Brown age 15 also from Gorham. The two young men hiked to the Deboullie Mountain Fire Tower at about 1:30pm. A storm came in and the two headed down the mountain on the wrong trail ending up about 3.1 miles further west in the wrong direction. This put them on the west end of Gardner Pond, a very remote location. At about 8:15pm, three game wardens responded to the call and headed to Deboullie Township for the search. At about 1:00am voice contact was made, but it was on the other side of the lake. After a 2 ½ hour hike up over Gardner Mountain and down to the lake the two young men were found at about 3:30am in cool but good condition. Game Warden Pilot Jeff Spencer was called in at dawn, to taxi the party out of the rugged country with the plane across Gardner and Deboullie Lake. Red River Sporting Camps owner Jen Brophy spent the entire night in the woods assisting wardens with her knowledge of the trails and was a huge reason the search was successful.

Nathaniel Nadeau, Garrick Brown and Jen Brophy with responding game wardens at Gardner Pond – Courtesy of MWS

Picture 423

CASCO – JULY 23, 2014: David Crocker, 86 of Portland was located yesterday along Meadow Brook in need of medical attention. While out fishing on along Meadow Brook on Monday, Mr. Crocker suffered a severe medical event. On Wednesday he received a phone call which awoke him and he was able to convey that he needed assistance. Four game wardens and a Cumberland County Deputy responded to the area and were able to locate Mr. Crocker after conducting a hasty search along Meadow Brook. Mr. Crocker was transported to Brighton Hospital after being outside for over 2 days.

No further information is available at this time.

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