Claims of domestic violence and low morale within the Gorham Police Department were cited in a town-commissioned report released Monday.

The report, however, gives no details about the claims, such as which members of the department may be involved, any disciplinary action taken or the nature of them. Town officials wouldn’t elaborate on the domestic violence issues outlined in the report, either.

“To the extent there was anything there, it was a personnel matter,” said Town Manager David Cole, meaning any incident could not be discussed publicly.

Acting Police Chief Christopher Sanborn did not return a call seeking comment Monday.

Most town councilors, including recently retired Police Chief Ronald Shepard, who were contacted for comment either couldn’t be reached, said they hadn’t read the report or declined to comment on the specific findings Monday.

Councilor Bruce Roullard said he wasn’t aware of domestic violence issues in the department.

“I was a little surprised to hear about that,” he said.

Councilor Sherrie Benner said she has questions that she plans to ask at a closed-door meeting April 7 with the firm that wrote the report and didn’t want to comment on specific aspects of it until she has those answers.

“Overall, I thought it was a positive report,” she said.

The report by Kennebunk human relations firm Dacri & Associates said that members of the police department who were interviewed “highlighted significant issues with morale and leadership” and that “one external agency … expressed concerns regarding domestic violence issues within the department and the process of investigating these claims.”

The report also noted that police department members complained that “internal investigations lack transparency.”

Cole said the item about internal investigations involved communication within the department and is something that can be improved.

“Regardless of what happened, it wasn’t effectively communicated back to employees of the department,” he said.

The Town Council approved paying $15,000 for the study of the department’s needs after councilors disagreed over whether to conduct an outside search for a new police chief or permanently promote Sanborn without the search.

For the study, the firm conducted 42 interviews with residents, councilors and city staff, including all members of the police department. The 11-page report mostly consisted of bullet points of the feedback received from the different groups, broken down by subject matter, including their view of the police department, challenges facing a new police chief and ideal traits in a chief.

“Most police department staff interviewed believe the town should look to the outside for their next chief,” the report said. It recommended conducting a search and inviting Sanborn to be a candidate.

Although members of the department said the morale problem preceded Sanborn’s appointment to acting chief, the report said, “many noted, however, that Sanborn has not made any improvements.”

Members also complained of favoritism and nepotism within the department.

They did say, however, they believed morale would improve after a new public safety building, approved by voters in November, is completed, 15 years after space issues in the current facility were first identified.

Through its other interviews, the firm found the impression of the police department outside of the department was positive.

“I don’t think there were any big surprises,” Cole said about the report.

“It generally points to the police department being well received within the community, but at the same time there are things to indicate we may need some more training.”


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