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Gloves come off early in sheriff primary duel

Primary fight shaping up

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Posted: Friday, January 17, 2014 2:35 pm | Updated: 2:41 pm, Fri Jan 17, 2014.

CUMBERLAND – Maine State Police Sgt. Michael Edes of Cumberland will challenge Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce of Standish, who plans to seek a second four-year term as sheriff, in the Democratic primary on June 10. 

In an interview, Edes, who is retiring, said that morale at the sheriff’s department has declined in recent years, and that, if elected, he would bring a “fresh perspective” to the job. 

“I’ve talked to dozens and dozens of deputies, both on the corrections side and the law enforcement side,” Edes said. “Universally, the one message that comes across is that the current administration is out of touch and seemingly does not care about their employees.”

Joyce, who served as chief deputy at the sheriff’s office from 2003 to 2010 and has worked at various positions in the department since 1986, brushed off the criticism, calling Edes “a police officer, coming off the street, thinking they know how to run a jail.”

“I was here for 10 years, in a capacity where I got to learn a little bit about the jail, before I was thrust in as sheriff to take over direct supervision of the jail,” Joyce said. “I think it’s always easy to sit back and say, ‘Yeah I could do that.’ Essentially, I think if you look at the fact that he was a sergeant, how much leadership can you say he’s had, and how much leadership at running a jail has he had in his career?”

Edes, a state police officer since 1986, the president of the Maine State Troopers Association since 1988 and the chairman of the National Troopers Coalition from 2009 to 2011, said that his experience listening to rank-and-file officers presents a contrast with what he characterized as Joyce’s top-down approach. 

“There’s a lack of personal contact; there’s a lack of consistency, and there’s a lack of listening, the top listening to the bottom,” Edes said. “You know, all the feedback I get is that when labor tells management or suggests different ways, management totally, totally ignores it, and keeps doing the same old, same old.”

Joyce suggested that Edes’ survey of deputies at the sheriff’s department was skewed.

“I always go by the term that if you try to make everybody happy, you make nobody happy,” Joyce said. “If you talk to the right people, you might find somebody that might say that morale is down, just like if I went and spoke to some of the people he’s worked with, I would find somebody that felt the same way.”

In general, Joyce said that he believes the sheriff’s department is heading in the right direction, with new facial recognition software installed at the Cumberland County Jail, and a law enforcement accreditation process under way with the Commission for Accreditation on Law Enforcement Agencies. 

“My hope is in the spring of 2015 we’ll be accredited,” he said. “What does that mean? Well, No. 1, the jail is accredited and has been since 2001. Our inmate medical division is accredited and has been since about 2003, 2004, and the law enforcement, when accredited, will give the sheriff’s office the distinction of being a triple-crown accreditation.”

But Edes, who says he would push for an expansion of alternative sentencing programs, said he is not convinced by Joyce’s rosy portrait.

“I think it’s time for a change,” he said. “They really are in need of new blood within the organization, new ideas, somebody that can bring a fresh perspective to the sheriff’s department. It’s time for somebody to take better management of the jail. Right now, there is low morale within the sheriff’s department itself, and under the current leadership, it’s just the same old, same old, and they need someone to go in there and improve morale.”

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