Protesters outside the Brunswick Police Station demand justice for George Floyd and an end to racism and police brutality in June. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — More than six months after issuing a proclamation that “black lives matter to the town of Brunswick” and committing to a review of local police practices and policies, local officials and community members are poised to roll up their sleeves and start the work. 

Last week, councilors approved the appointment of Brunswick residents Linda Ashe-Ford, Jason Gould, Florence Hull and Claudia Watson to the town’s Police Review Committee, which was officially formed in October. 

They will join councilors Dan Ankeles, Kathy Wilson and James Mason, as well as a yet-to-be-selected school representative and Brunswick Police Chief Scott Stewart, to “examine current policing practices and to align future policies with best practices and citizen expectations,” according to the group’s charge. “This proactive approach will help Brunswick avoid the kind of tragedies and ensuing social unrest that have taken place elsewhere.” 

The first meeting hasn’t been scheduled, but Town Manager John Eldridge said in an email Tuesday that they are aiming for next week. 

The committee is tasked with exploring three main areas — Police department procedures and policies, budget and equipment and community relations. 

The group will look at use of force,  non-lethal force, de-escalation procedures, use of drones and surveillance equipment, bias training, the internal affairs process, adequacy and composition of staff, training and the use of military-grade equipment. 


They also will consider what 21st-century community policing means for Brunswick, and examine the department’s interaction with minority groups, the economically disadvantaged and those suffering from mental illness, as well as the existing community outreach programs and their effectiveness.  

The committee will host multiple public forums, roundtables and surveys, with the goal of submitting a report on its findings by the end of April. The group will not have any authority over the police department, but the report can make recommendations for the council to consider. 

It is the public input process that Ankeles said will be crucial for the success of the group. 

“We can audit the budget and we can audit written policy and that will probably be the easy part,” he said. “We need to hear what people’s experiences have been and we need to learn from that publicly.” 

“We want to build the bridges before there’s a problem,” he added, and “for the parts where there have been problems, we want to fix them.” 

The committee composition is a little different than intended, Ankeles said. The committee charge stipulated that “to the extent possible” members would include people of color or racial minority, a mental health or behavioral health professional, a criminal defense attorney, district attorney or assistant district attorney. 


With the exception of Mason, who is a defense attorney as well as a town councilor, none of the members have a legal background. 

However, three of the four people on the committee are people of color and all have “different lived experiences (from) a lot of other folks who live in Brunswick,” Ankeles said, which is “a pretty major part of this committee getting to a successful endpoint.”

Jason Gould, one of the members of the newly formed committee and also a member of the school department’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee, agreed that representation on a committee like this is important. 

“As an African American male who lives in this town and has kids in the schools, I have certain insights and value that could be brought to the committee,” he said, and he might be able to “help provide perspectives that might not otherwise be heard.” 

For years, Gould worked to help set up neighborhood crime watches in the Boston area and worked collaboratively with law enforcement. 

The town has an “outstanding police department,” Gould said, “it’s important that the community sees police officers as a positive influence and resource in the community.”


People should be enthusiastic about talking to officers, he said, and that he hopes to help open those doors and build the channels of communication within the community. 

With the group’s functional and racial diversity, “we’ve got the right people in the room to take up the work of the committee,” Gould said. 

Claudia Watson, another committee member and the director of the family respite program at the National Alliance on Mental Illness Maine, said she hopes to take a closer look at how officers are responding to mental health calls— something many groups have advocated should be done by social workers and not police. 

Officers frequently respond to a wide variety of calls, often for mental health crises and without the resources and tools they may need, she said, and this review committee is an opportunity to look at training and other opportunities to effectively handle these situations. 

The committee’s charge looks at all aspects of policing, she said, adding that she is impressed by the late April report deadline. 

“To me, it sends a message that it’s important to put a lot of time and thought into this,” she said. 

In June, the council issued a statement affirming its commitment to speak out against racism, discrimination and hatred with a promise to “commit ourselves to working on ways in which we can engage our communities to address and uproot institutionalized racism and implicit bias and offer spaces for dialogue, trainings, and understanding.”

The council’s proclamation followed weeks of protests in Brunswick, local pieces of a nationwide movement this summer, sparked by outrage over the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was killed by a white police officer in Minnesota in May. The video of Floyd’s death, coupled with heightened tensions over the deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, among others, ignited protests calling for an end to police brutality and racism, as well as efforts to defund police departments. 

The protests effectively “shone a light on systemic racism and the current and historically disparate treatment of African Americans and people of color in our country,” councilors said. “Hate will not be tolerated here in Brunswick and we will stand together to fight any form of bigotry, discrimination, or hate, in speech or action, against any group, from whatever the source.”

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