A Cumberland County sheriff’s deputy who has been at the vanguard of community policing in his hometown of Standish stands accused of domestic violence assault and terrorizing.

Deputies were called at 8:30 p.m. Monday to Bonny Eagle Road in Standish, the home of Paul Pettengill, 42, an 18-year veteran of the sheriff’s office. Following an investigation, a supervisor arrested Pettengill on charges of domestic violence assault and terrorizing.

Pettengill was arrested without incident and booked into the county jail in Portland shortly after midnight.

Pettengill was placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation.

Sheriff Kevin Joyce said the department takes the incident very seriously.

“Domestic violence is never acceptable whether it be from outside or one of our own,” Joyce said. “We have a strict policy that people are aware of on how we’re going to deal with it. We want to make sure we hold our own as accountable as we hold the public.”

He would not provide details of the incident or identify the victim. He said the victim had no injuries that required treatment.

Joyce said he is not aware of Pettengill having any disciplinary history. He has no criminal history, according to the State Bureau of Identification.

Pettengill was not on duty at the time of the incident.

He was assigned to be a community policing officer in Standish in 2005, one of the first examples in the state of bringing a community policing approach to a rural patrol area. Standish has a population of 9,900 spread over 63 square miles and is the largest community in the county without its own police department.

Pettengill also helped establish the Volunteers in Police Service program in town where trained volunteers help direct traffic at accident and fire scenes and perform other functions that free up deputies to focus on tasks which require police training.

“It was quite a shock,” said Standish Town Manager Gordon Billington, who said he did not know the details of the incident involving Pettengill. “He’s really been a valued member out here, strongly contributing to the community. That was a real shame.”

Standish has a contract with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office for police protection. The town pays $438,000 per year and provides the deputies’ equipment and a substation, and the sheriff’s office provides the equivalent of 5½ deputies, which ensures 24-hour coverage, seven days a week.

Joyce said another deputy will be assigned to cover the Standish post while Pettengill is on leave.

A person is guilty of terrorizing if he threatens violence against another person. It is a Class D misdemeanor. Domestic violence assault occurs when a person assaults a family or household member or intimate partner.

It is typically a Class D misdemeanor unless there are prior convictions for similar behavior.

Lois Galgay Reckitt, executive director of Family Crisis Services, which provides services to victims of domestic violence, said a simple assault conviction would not necessarily mean a person would lose his right to carry a gun – which could end a police officer’s law enforcement career.

A victim in a case of domestic violence in which the perpetrator is an officer is often conflicted because a conviction can create employment problems. The victim also may worry that the case is being investigated by other officers, potentially friends and colleagues of the person accused, Reckitt said.

“A lot of times she thinks: ‘Well, he knows the cops, so nothing is going to happen,’ which has not been our experience,” she said.

Family Crisis Services works closely with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office on domestic violence calls, following up with victims after the initial call to make sure they are aware of services.

Police now are much more likely than in the past to treat a domestic violence assault by a police officer as they would a similar crime by a civilian, Reckitt said. She said the professional response by the sheriff’s office gives other victims confidence that they will get a sympathetic response if they call police.

Another complication of a law enforcement officer being charged with domestic violence is that the officer invariably has access to guns, which can be intimidating to a victim. However, Joyce said he has no indication there was a gun involved in this incident.

Joyce said the investigation should be completed in a couple of days and the information forwarded to the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.

The department also is conducting an internal investigation to determine whether any policies were violated. That can sometimes identify areas of behavior that are not against the law but do violate department policy.


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