Cumberland Town Manager William Shane reports on allegations of police misconduct to the Cumberland Town Council on Sept. 28.

CUMBERLAND — A Black attorney for a prominent Portland law firm is alleging police officers in Cumberland exhibited racist behavior toward her on two separate occasions, prompting an investigation by the department and the state Attorney General’s Office.

Krystal Williams, an attorney with Bernsten Shur, a law firm based in Portland and Augusta, wrote about the allegations in an issue of Maine Bar Journal, a publication of the Maine State Bar Association. The article, “Why White Privilege is a Necessary Part of any Conversation on Racism,” focused on comments about racism in the legal profession.

Toward the end of the article, Williams described the Cumberland incidents to illustrate how personal racism can feel.

“When I am stopped by a Cumberland police officer because – allegedly – the small light that illuminates my license plate is out on one side – it’s personal,” Williams wrote. “And when that same officer sees my ACLU and Maine Law tote bags in my back seat and ‘let’s’ me go only to follow me until I reach my house — it’s personal. When I am stopped on my way to the gym by a Cumberland police officer who approaches my car yelling, ‘Do you have a gun?!’ – it’s personal.”

Williams said the allegations took place in early 2019 when she lived in Cumberland; she now lives in Portland. Cumberland Town Manager William Shane did not return a call seeking comment before The Forecaster’s deadline, but he addressed the issue at a Cumberland Town Council meeting Sept. 28, when he read a statement that was also posted to the town’s Facebook page.

After citing the allegations in the journal article, Shane said town officials learned of the article and the allegations on Sept. 2, and Cumberland Police Chief Charles Rumsey immediately contacted both Williams and the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

“These allegations are now being investigated by an outside agency in coordination with the attorney general’s office of investigations at the request of the police chief and with the full cooperation of the officers involved,” Shane said.

Shane declined to comment in further detail, citing procedures regarding complaints against officers that are part of the collective bargaining agreement between the town and the Cumberland Police Benevolent Association. He also referenced state law demanding confidentiality “unless disciplinary action is taken as the result of the complaints, charges or accusations of misconduct.”

Rumsey declined to identify the officers, but said no one in his department had been placed on leave. He also declined to identify the outside agency Shane referred to. To his knowledge, Rumsey said, and to the knowledge of officers who have been with the department for more than 10 years, no Cumberland Police officer has ever been disciplined for racist conduct.

“It goes without saying for us that we take these allegations seriously,” he said.

Williams, commenting via email, confirmed that Rumsey did reach out to her and offered her the option to file a formal complaint with the department, which she did. Williams said her father was a police officer during much of her childhood, and understood that “police officers hold an undeniable and mostly well-earned place of authority and influence in our communities.”

“As much as we celebrate them, we should also hold them accountable when their behavior suggests that factors other than community safety and compliance with the law are at play,” Williams wrote.

Williams declined to comment in detail about the investigation because it is ongoing, but said: “Chief Rumsey has repeatedly assured me that the investigation will be independent, thorough, and transparent. Until and unless I have reason to believe differently, I choose to believe that will be the case.”

Sean Murphy 780-9094

Email: [email protected]

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