The president of Lewiston's police union spoke out Tuesday night against a new Advisory Committee on Community Safety formed by Mayor Carl Sheline, calling it a "political game" and questioning its membership.

Detective Tom Murphy spoke during the council's public comment period, a week after Sheline and Councilor Linda Scott announced the formation of the committee on the heels of two public forums on the topic.

Murphy said "certain politicians" are trying to "pit the community against the Police Department," and are "spinning a tragic situation into a political game for their reelections."

"We are not your enemy," he said. "We only care about the well-being of this city and its safety."

When announcing the committee, a joint statement from Sheline and Scott said the public forums made it "clear there is more work to be done to improve communication and cooperation among the city’s residents and between residents and the city."

The mayoral ad hoc committee will be tasked with “advising and making recommendations to the City Council and municipal staff on the subject of community safety in Lewiston.”

Murphy questioned the committee's makeup Tuesday, stating that the list of appointees "raises eyebrows" and that police had no input on selections.

He did not elaborate on what specific policies he's concerned the committee may discuss, but a citizen review board, which could review alleged police misconduct, was mentioned several times during the recent forums.

Murphy also claimed there are "convicted felons and domestic abusers" on the committee.

"It's sad to see the political tactics I feel you're using at a time when uniting this community should be your goal," he said.

According to last week's announcement, the committee features 13 members, including Scott and Abdikadir Negeye of Maine Immigrant and Refugee Services as co-chairpersons.

It will also feature Police Chief David St. Pierre, Superintendent of Schools Jake Langlais, Androscoggin County District Attorney Neil McLean Jr., Lewiston attorney Jack Clifford, Tree Street Youth Executive Director Julia Sleeper, City Councilor Scott Harriman, School Committee member Ashley Medina and others.

At the end of Tuesday's council meeting, Councilors Rick LaChapelle, Lee Clement, and Bob McCarthy all spoke out against the committee, calling it "political grandstanding" with a "pre-determined" outcome of establishing a citizen review board.

LaChapelle said Sheline and Scott are "pandering to anti-police activists," while Clement called it a "morale-busting group to disparage the police."

LaChapelle and Clement questioned whether the council has the authority to ask that no other city resources are allocated to the committee, as well as the authority to remove the chief from the committee. City administration said it would check with its legal counsel.

The committee has not met yet, and has not outlined potential discussion topics other than stating it would review input made during the forums.

Following the public comments from Murphy, Councilor Scott, who was absent Tuesday, sent a statement to the Sun Journal that said last week's forums spoke of challenges with communication and "a big divide" in the community in regard to addressing violent crime.

"This advisory committee is comprised intentionally of community members, community partners and local decision makers for public safety," she said. "For Lewiston to succeed in addressing violent crime, we have to explore ways to improve relations, trust and communication across all these stakeholders."

During the forums, which at times became confrontational, several residents said the city and local organizations need to collaborate to address the root causes of crime and violence in the city. Others said there continues to be a lack of accountability.

Scott said that in order to address safety issues, "we have to understand and address the divide and the lack of communication the police chief, city councilors, and too many residents have identified as a key missing element in Lewiston."

"The committee is committed to exploring these subjects more deeply and engaging in a participatory process for finding solutions," she said.

In a statement following the meeting Tuesday, Sheline said, "I appreciate our valued community members, including Chief St. Pierre, serving on this advisory committee. The committee will meet soon and I have every expectation that it begins a constructive dialog about safety in our city."

Murphy and the police union also took issue with former Mayor Mark Cayer's ad hoc committee on diversity, equity and inclusion in 2020 due to its membership.

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