BIDDEFORD — An emotional City Council meeting broke into shouts and tears Tuesday night as sexual abuse victims and their supporters pleaded with city officials to suspend the police chief and deputy police chief amid allegations that two former officers abused teenage boys.

After listening to an hour of public comment, the council abruptly ended the session to hold an executive session as residents, including sexual abuse victims, yelled at the mayor and councilors to “step down.”

After the executive session, the council unanimously passed a resolution asking the state Attorney General’s Office to conclude its investigation into allegations against a former city police officer as soon as possible.

The resolution also asked state Sen. David Dutremble to introduce legislation to change state statute to allow officials to comment during investigations and to restrict registered sex offenders from living within 750 feet of schools and playgrounds.

The council also voted unanimously in support of having the city attorney draft a local ordinance to put the same restrictions on sex offenders.

Speaking before a standing-room-only crowd attending the meeting, Matthew Lauzon said it is irresponsible for the police chief to stay on the job as the Attorney General’s Office investigates his allegation that former police officer Stephen Dodd sexually abused him in the late 1990s. Lauzon said he would like federal authorities to investigate the department.

“I do not believe a fair and objective investigation is happening,” Lauzon said during an emotional five-minute speech to the council during the public comment session.

MORE ALLEGED VICTIMS SPEAK OUT

It was the first time that Lauzon, 30, has spoken at a public gathering since writing about the alleged abuse on Facebook in February. Since then, he had led an increasingly aggressive social media campaign to demand justice and rally abuse survivors to support each other.

Lauzon’s campaign to bring attention to the investigation included a video posted online over the weekend that showed him confronting a registered sex offender whom Lauzon said abused him as a young teenager. That sex offender, Michael McKeown, lives across the street from a Little League field. McKeown denies that he abused Lauzon.

Supporters spoke in support of Lauzon’s efforts to hold accountable the people he says sexually abused him, as well as those who could have prevented it, while he was growing up in Biddeford. On April 21, a dozen supporters addressed the City Council and asked city leaders to take action in support of abuse victims.

Sixteen people – including some from outside of Biddeford – asked the council to suspend Police Chief Roger Beaupre and Deputy Chief JoAnne Fisk. Several broke down in tears as they described the abuse they said occurred at the hands of Dodd and another former officer, Norman Gaudette, who was investigated in the 1990s but never charged.

“I don’t want to have children in this town stand here in two decades and have this same conversation,” said Matthew Mills of Biddeford, who said he was abused as a child, though not by a Biddeford police officer. Lauzon left council chambers in tears as Mills spoke.

During the meeting, two speakers identified themselves as victims of Dodd. Two people said they were abused by a different police officer and two speakers said they were abused by people other than the officers.

Melissa Bednarowski, a former city councilor, challenged councilors and the mayor to allow the investigation to be done with integrity by suspending the police chief.

“Show your constituents you care,” she said. “Show us you’re listening.”

Lauzon first brought his allegations of abuse to police last October, more than a decade after he says he was repeatedly abused by Dodd, who was then a police officer. Dodd has since retired and moved out of state.

The Attorney General’s Office is investigating the allegations, and Lauzon’s attorney, Walter McKee, is conducting a civil investigation. McKee also represents three other alleged victims and has said the city of Biddeford and police department will face lawsuits.

Dodd has no criminal record in Maine and has not been charged in connection with Lauzon’s allegations. Dodd was investigated by the Attorney General’s Office in 2002 after similar allegations were made, but was never charged. He retired shortly after and moved to Florida.

CITY OFFICIALS UNABLE TO COMMENT

City officials, including Chief Beaupre, say they are prohibited by law from discussing an ongoing investigation and from disclosing personnel information about Dodd.

City Manager John Bubier said the city’s Police Commission holds the authority to suspend the police chief. The commission meets on the third Thursday of each month and has not publicly discussed the investigation or Lauzon’s request that the police chief and deputy police chief be suspended.

At the start of the meeting, Mayor Alan Casavant said city officials cannot comment, but want to see justice served.

“Remaining silent is difficult and frustrating as mayor, and is equally as frustrating for members of the council,” he said.

Mellisa Luedke, a Biddeford resident speaking in support of abuse victims, said city leaders need to step up and take action “to save this city from the anguish it is going through.” She questioned why the police chief should stay in place after 34 years heading the department.

“If (Beaupre) had no idea what was going on under his nose for that long, I’m glad he wasn’t a detective,” she said.

As the public comment session progressed, the audience of about 70 people repeatedly broke into applause, which is against council policy. After gaveling people out of order, councilors quickly voted to adjourn the public comment portion of the meeting. Within minutes, councilors briefly reopened public comment before moving on to other agenda items.

The crowd, which had spilled into the hallway, booed the council and mayor and chanted “Step down, step down” as councilors talked about other business. Councilors abruptly voted to end the public meeting and moved into a previously scheduled executive session.