October 13, 2013

Reports show Fairfield police chief as man in crisis

John Emery blames stress, alcohol and medication for his actions that shocked those who knew him.

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 3)

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John Emery, a former Fairfield police chief who pleaded guilty to operating under the influence, says that his erratic behavior happened “right out of the blue.”

David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

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Deputy Attorney General William Stokes, who supervised the case for Maloney and assisted her office in the Freedom of Access Act request from the Morning Sentinel, said he would only discuss the OUI charge. He wouldn’t comment on why Emery didn’t face additional charges, such as reckless conduct with a firearm or causing an armed standoff with police.

McKee said there was a suggestion that there could be a charge related to the firearm, but as part of the agreement with prosecutors it was not pursued.

Given all the details of the case, the appropriate charge was operating under the influence, Stokes said.

“Was it a risky situation? Yes,” he said. “Could you prove other charges beyond a reasonable doubt? That’s another question altogether.”

Stokes said Gottardi, Paul and the other officers at the scene that night knew Emery and that may have had a role in how they dealt with him.

“They knew who he was. They knew his background,” Stokes said. “So I can understand where they might have a different perception of the situation because they knew him. I don’t think anyone is disputing that it could have escalated, but it didn’t.”

Stokes said Emery wasn’t treated any better or any worse in the prosecution of the case than anyone else would have been. He said as a first-time offender, Emery was treated fairly and the presiding judge agreed with the sentence.

Operating under the influence is a class D misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

“He’s going to have a criminal record and I suspect he won’t be a police officer ever again,” Stokes said.

Stokes said the delay in serving the summons on Emery – it took five months – was in part because Maloney had just taken office in January. Maloney also had a new staff of assistant district attorneys, including Joelle Pratt, who handled the case. Eight of the 11 prosecutors under the previous district attorney left office before the November election.

Drago, the consultant, believes police acted reasonably and professionally.

If police had been on a road with no cover or protection that night and Emery approached with a gun in his pocket then there would have been less time to allow him to get closer and things might have ended differently.

“Depending on where the officers were and the kind of protection they had, they would have to make that call on how far they’re going to let him go,” said Drago, who read the case reports. “The closer he got, obviously, it got more dangerous and as soon as one of the officers left their place of safety to tackle him, this is the most dangerous time of all.”

Drago said that before police use force they must consider the seriousness of the crime that led to the situation, what kind of resistance the person is giving, whether the person is trying to flee and whether the person poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others.

Police also need to consider who the person is, Drago said.

“I don’t know if they would have done that with a stranger, but there is certainly nothing wrong with considering all the factors when you make these decisions that includes what you know about the person with the gun,” Drago said. “Is this person mentally ill? Has this person just robbed a bank and shot three people? Is this the police chief who’s never been violent before? Everything has to be taken into consideration and certainly the fact that you know this man for so many years, that’s an important part of it.”

His law enforcement career now over, Emery said he has set his sights on a career in woodworking. He said he recently bought equipment and a load of birch products to work on.

Emery said he wants to build a workshop and retail store next spring and also sell what he makes on the Internet.

“I think I’m going to be my own boss for a while,” Emery said. “I have been doing that with my brother-in-law for the past few months and have really enjoyed myself. No stress here.”

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at: dharlow@centralmaine.com

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