Topsham Police Chief Christopher Lewis is leaving Topsham after 21 years with Topsham Police Department. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

TOPSHAM — After 26 years in law enforcement, Topsham Police Chief Christopher Lewis said it’s time for a change.

Lewis announced his plans to resign last week, effective July 17. Lewis, 48, said he plans to take another job in law enforcement closer to his home in Augusta as his youngest children prepare to enter college. He still couldn’t say what the new job is Friday because the hiring process hadn’t been finalized.

Lewis has spent 17 years as an administrator with the Topsham Police Department and the past eight years as the chief of police. His need for a career “reset” comes at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement, protesting police brutality and systemic racism nationally, is calling for changes to law enforcement. The movement gained momentum after George Floyd was killed by a police officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly 8 minutes on May 25.

When Lewis saw the video of the officer restraining Floyd, he experienced disbelief that it could happen without other officers stopping the officer kneeling on Floyd.

“It goes against all of the training I’ve ever had,” said Lewis.

“It’s disheartening because we all get labeled by the actions of a few,” he said. “I understand the sentiment, or I’d like to think I understand. I understand where the anger comes from when you watch that because they do represent us in the profession when you’re in a uniform and a badge.”

The nationwide protests have sparked calls to cut funding to police departments, funneling money to other social services and narrowing the focus of police to violent crime.

There also has been a push to remove school resource officers from schools as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. The Portland Board of Education voted on June 3o to remove school resource officers from Portland and Deering high schools.

As the first school resource officer at Mt. Ararat Middle School in Topsham, Lewis said he feels removing school resource officers from schools would be a knee jerk reaction and a missed opportunity to a holistic approach to community policing.

“I’ve seen what the position can do, whether you’re dealing with restorative justice or your dealing with drug issues or you’re dealing with just having a teacher invite you to come into the classroom and having a conversation about how important the U.S. Constitution is,” he said.

Communities will have to start having serious conversations about what they want from their police departments, Lewis said. Despite often critical conversations about reform within law enforcement taking place around the country, “we will be stronger for it,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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