Maine’s attorney general says she is not satisfied with her office simply investigating a police officer’s use of deadly force to determine if it was justified.

Janet Mills wants a select group of experts to dig a little deeper to see if they can figure out why officers are being thrust into more and more volatile situations, some of which result in an officer having to resort to deadly force.

“The dramatic increase in the number of police-involved deadly force incidents in the last few years deserves a broader analysis of the cause of such events,” Mills wrote in a letter to the 13 members of the task force.

Mills, a Democrat who is running for governor, also asked the task force to investigate the increase in incidents in which police do not use deadly force.

In a telephone interview Thursday night, Mills said the task force needs to look for trends and causes behind the number of officer-involved shootings.

As of January 2018, the Attorney General’s Office reported 53 officer involved shootings in Maine from Jan. 1, 2012 to Dec. 2017, resulting in 28 deaths.

She said her office investigated the use of deadly force by police six times in 2016 and 13 times in 2017.

Only two of the incidents from 2016 resulted in death.

“I want this panel to do a broader analysis. There are a lot of issues in play including domestic violence, substance abuse, people barricading themselves in a home and mental health issues,” Mills said.

“Are there things that police officers could be doing differently? We need to find out what’s going on in our society.”

“We welcome the formation of the task force. We can no longer simply ask whether the decision to shoot someone was legally justified. We have to ask what could have been done differently in the minutes, days and even months beforehand to prevent the situation from ever happening,” Alison Beyea, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, said in a statement.

Mills said the 13-member task force will meet for the first time on March 6 in Augusta. Mills said the task force will have access to case files from the Attorney General’s Office and from local police, but they will not have any special powers – such as the authority to subpoena witnesses or examine psychiatric records.

Mills said the task force, which will meet for several months, will likely be asked to develop recommendations for preventing the use of deadly force.

Mills said the task force will be chaired by Matt Brown, a retired federal probation officer, who currently works in crisis intervention training.

She also invited Sen. Bill Diamond and Rep. Patrick W. Corey, who both serve on the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committed on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, as well as Lt. John Cote of the Maine State Police, Assistant Attorney General John Alsop, Debra Baeder, a state forensic examiner and a representative from the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence to serve on the panel.

Portland Press Herald Executive Editor Cliff Schechtman was among those invited to participate on the task force.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

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