Biddeford police chief to retire after 51 years in the department

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Sep. 13—Chief Roger Beaupre will retire early next year after 51 years with the Biddeford Police Department and 42 years as chief.

Beaupre notified the city last week that his last working day will be Jan. 25, 2023.

"I have had a gratifying and challenging career that has allowed me to grow and evolve the department into the professional and progressive agency it is today," Beaupre wrote in a letter to City Manager James Bennett announcing his intention to retire.

Beaupre joined the department as a patrol officer on Nov. 19, 1971, after serving nearly four years in the Air Force. He rose through the ranks and became chief in 1981.

Beaupre noted in the letter that he has served under 13 mayors, 121 city councilors, five city managers and 27 police commissioners.

Beaupre did not respond Tuesday to requests for an interview about his career and decision to retire.

Mayor Alan Casavant said Beaupre had been hinting for several years that he was considering retirement, so his announcement did not come as a complete surprise. But it will be hard to replace a chief who has been innovative and dedicated in his leadership, he said.

When Casavant was first elected to the City Council in the 1970s, Beaupre was a "rising star" in the department because he had a college education. When he became chief, Beaupre modernized the department by implementing new policies around education and training, Casavant said.

"Over the years, whenever there were particular issues that arose, he was on the front lines initiating or advocating for change," Casavant said.

Under Beaupre's leadership, the police department has twice earned national accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, a rigorous process that includes comparing policies, practices and processes against internationally accepted public safety standards.

In late 2020, Beaupre responded to a growing number of mental health calls by working with Spurwink to hire professionals to respond to crisis calls and other situations officers are not best equipped to handle.

"One of the few criticisms that might be fairly leveled at the chief is he has always erred on the side of less publicity instead of more. As a result of this style, there may be some that are not aware of how progressive the department is," Bennett, the city manager, wrote this week in a memo to city councilors.

Though generally well-regarded in the city, Beaupre's tenure was not without controversy.

In 2015, Beaupre faced calls for his resignation or suspension after several men claimed they were sexually abused by Biddeford police officers as teenagers and that Beaupre knew what was happening, an allegation the chief denied. In response to calls to put Beaupre on paid administrative leave while the Attorney General's Office investigated the allegations, the City Council passed a resolution saying it would not suspend Beaupre or Deputy Chief JoAnne Fisk.

City leaders later said the AG's office gave the city no indication Beaupre or Fisk committed any wrongdoing. Still, the city and Beaupre faced several lawsuits from alleged victims who said Beaupre turned a blind eye to the abuse.

In an unrelated case, Susan Stevens and Jocelyne Welch, the mothers of two teenagers who were killed by their landlord in 2012, filed a lawsuit against the city, Beaupre and two individual officers who responded and left the scene minutes before the shooting.

The victims' mothers alleged in the lawsuit that the officers did not do enough to address the landlord's threats before the fatal shooting. The city argued that the officers tried to calm the landlord down and should not be held liable for the tragedy. That case is still pending and has a hearing scheduled in October.

The City Council was scheduled to meet Tuesday night for a workshop to discuss recruiting a new police chief.

Bennett recommended that the city undertake a more inclusive process than has been used in the past to recruit department heads, particularly given public dialogue about policing in the last few years. He suggested hiring a professional recruiting firm and ensuring there are multiple opportunities for feedback from staff and the public.

Under the city charter, the city manager selects the police chief, whose appointment is confirmed by the City Council. Bennett is advocating for a selection committee to assist in the hiring process.

A tentative schedule for the hiring process included in Bennett's memo estimates recruitment ads would be placed by the end of October, and candidates selected by a nine-member interview panel by mid-December. Interviews and the city manager's recommendation would be done by the end of January and a new police chief would start by mid-March.

"It should be noted that I have absolute confidence in our deputy chief and her ability to lead the department if the process should extend beyond (Beaupre's) January 25, 2023, retirement date," Bennett said in the memo.