Saco Police Chief Jack Clements Photo courtesy of the city of Saco

SACO — Certified Saco Police officers now have the power to arrest suspects outside their city, after the City Council authorized statewide police powers at their meeting on Monday.

Police Chief Jack Clements, in a letter to City Administrator Bryan Kaenrath asking for the City Council to convey the arrest powers, said granting the authority is a way communities can work together.

Clements said since he arrived in Saco, he has been concerned about the department’s limited authority within the state, “given the fact so much change has occurred across our nation with regard to terrorism and crime.”

Clements was named Saco police chief in July 2019, after serving two years as a Saco deputy chief. The Kennebunk native worked nearly 25 years in Las Vegas, Nevada, before moving back to Maine.

“Officers are frequently confronted with investigations that take them outside the City of Saco,” wrote Clements. “Officers are also often witnesses to crimes occurring while in other communities within the State of Maine. Increasingly, we are working collaboratively with other law enforcement agencies in Maine in addressing narcotics and violent crime. This is occurring both because crime is mobile and also because agencies across the country are dealing with staffing shortages. Working together, as we have been, we can be more efficient and effective.”

“The challenge has been that we do not have the authority to make an arrest outside the city,” Clements continued.

He pointed out that most communities in the area, naming York, Biddeford, Scarborough, Sanford, Portland, South Portland and Westbrook, have had the authorization for years.

He gave an example of how the arrest power might come into play.

“With Saco having borders with not only York, but also Cumberland County communities, we are often placed in a position where an officer checks on a disabled motorist just feet over the city line,” Clements wrote. “They do this because they are trained to check on people who may need assistance and also because it is what is expected of a police officer. However, if while the officer is checking on the person, if they observe narcotics or the person becomes combative, the officer is placed in a very difficult position (without arrest powers).”

State statutes gives communities the authority to grant only warrantless arrests, said Clements.

According to the statute, the arresting officer should notify the other community in advance of the arrest if possible, or immediately afterward.

There was no council debate.

“(We’re) authorizing our police department to make arrests in other communities, but they wouldn’t be doing patrols,” said Councilor Nathan Johnston, who made the motion to approve.

The vote was unanimous.

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