ALFRED — Retired longtime Sheriff’s Deputy Roger Hicks is challenging incumbent William L. King in the race for York County sheriff; a rematch of the 2018 contest.

York County Sheriff’s Office operates York County Jail, provides law enforcement to 14 rural towns without police departments and is the primary provider for nine of them. The Sheriff’s Office provides contract deputies to several of the communities and maintains a civil process division.

William King Courtesy Photo

King, 68, is seeking his third, four-year term in the job. Elected sheriff in 2014, the Democratic candidate began working at the Sheriff’s Office in 2010. The Saco resident holds a master’s degree in management, an undergraduate degree in sociology and graduated from the federal law enforcement training center. He began his law enforcement career in Portland, worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and retired from the U.S. Department of Justice. He has two children. King was elected first vice president of the Maine Sheriff’s Association executive board in 2019.

Roger Hicks Courtesy Photo

Hicks, 64, is married and has two sons, He retired after 25 years with the York County Sheriff’s Office and works for Western Express. The Republican candidate and Hollis resident is a graduate of Maine Criminal Justice Academy corrections and law enforcement programs and holds a juvenile officer certification, among others. He implemented DARE and School Resource Officer programs in the rural school district in the YCSO jurisdiction and was the agency’s first Hate and Bias Crimes investigator. Hicks was liaison to the York County Emergency Management Agency and a volunteer firefighter for 40 years. He has been a Hollis Select Board member, and member of the York County Budget Committee and SAD 6 Budget Advisory Board.

We asked candidates about the ongoing staffing challenges at York County Jail and other matters, and about their priorities.

During the 2018 race, there were 20 corrections officer vacancies out of about 74 positions at York County Jail. In late September, there were 44 vacancies.


“The nationwide labor shortage in corrections has become particularly acute in the last couple of years,” said King. “A variety of factors have contributed to the current shortage in York County, including stresses brought on by the COVID pandemic, rapidly rising compensation at competing jobs in our area and the challenges of working in corrections.”

“(We) attend every career fair, speak with students as well as those individuals who are exploring career changes or second careers,” said King of the Sheriff’s Office and county human resources department.

Employment sites are used to attract a national audience and the county is exploring hiring a professional recruiter, he said. There have been pay increases and bonuses to new hires and employees who refer them. King said the department is working with Catholic Charities and others to attract asylum seekers, refugees, and new Americans to the profession. He said the county has a cadre of reserves who supplement staff.

Hicks said recruitment is a statewide issue — but said retention “is an issue created by leadership problems.”

“The jail is losing employees faster than they are recruiting,” said Hicks. “I will create a nurturing working environment; mentoring and training employees to be successful for the next promotional step and recognizing the skills that each officer brings with them in order for them to expand their knowledge in areas of interest. I believe in fostering family unity; addressing the wellness of our officers and their families through a progressive wellness program. … people don’t leave good jobs; they leave bad management.”

Hicks said he would foster a positive working environment “by being open to employee suggestions and working side by side with our employee unions.”


County commissioners have previously discussed the potential impact to the sheriff’s patrol division if Maine State Police  at some future time were to change their policing model that now sees them provide primary policing in Alfred, Hollis, Dayton, Lebanon, and Lyman. Commissioners have tended to prefer contract deputies, where communities hire officers through the Sheriff’s Office, rather than adding officers to the general roster. We asked candidates their thoughts.

“We enjoy a very positive partnership with the Maine State Police, and we are assured that they are not changing their patrol commitment to York County,” said King. “However, should that ever change, I believe my collaborative relationship with the commissioners and our shared commitment to public safety in York County will ensure we take the appropriate steps to increase patrol staffing to maintain a safe environment and ensure our communities enjoy an extraordinary quality of life.”

“We are fortunate to have a highly committed workforce at the Sheriff’s Office evidenced by our fully staffed complement of patrol deputies and many others who have applied and are waiting for additional vacancies,” King added.

Hicks said he doesn’t believe in the current contract policing model. “I will put forth a budget that will support adequate patrol coverage in those towns,” said Hicks. “The current model creates an unstable safety environment for our taxpayers and our employees as well as creating retention issues which opens our agency, employees, and our taxpayers to a lack of protection. I would be open to towns requesting extra details to address special enforcement situations. Current contracts are poised to be terminated or not renewed with employee jobs at risk and our taxpayers will lose protection. Additionally, layoffs would create a serious financial burden for the county. I stand by my past statement that contracts are filling the void of adequate staffing and the towns are paying the bill for the current administration because the contract towns’ agreements are being violated every day.”

We asked the candidates to outline priorities and explain why people should vote for them.

• Hicks pledged to improve morale and employee retention with “effective leadership which will include a review of conditions in the entire Sheriff’s Office, including a departmental meeting with all divisions … and voluntary individual meetings with each employee with a mind towards repairing morale and integrity within the department.”


“Relationships with all of the municipalities and taxpayers in York County will be repaired and will work to rebuild the Sheriff’s Department into the forward thinking and flagship agency it is meant to be,” he said. “Programming will be established which will be available to all 29 municipalities. An aggressive training program will be reinstated to ensure that employees are not decertified because of training issues and increase employees’ potential for promotions and other specialized opportunities.”

During his 25 years with the Sheriff’s Office, Hicks served as corrections officer and deputy as well as in supervisory positions as a sergeant. He said those experiences have equipped him to lead.

He noted his involvement with the DARE and School Resource programs, among others.

“I understand what these employees face every day,” Hicks said. “I will be on the front line with my employees while they are working. I will be a working sheriff. I will remove politics from the York County Sheriff’s Office and focus on the mission of protecting and serving the citizens of York County.”

• King said he will continue focusing  on serious crimes and traffic, addressing the opioid crisis, working to bring the corrections division to full staff and ensure wellness and resilience for the workforce.

“The York County Sheriff’s Office has done an admirable job of reducing serious crimes in our communities,” said King. “Burglaries and crimes against persons have gone down dramatically in the past few years because of our vigorous enforcement and investigations.”


He said the Sheriff’s Office has a clearance rate of 30 percent on the most prevalent crime — property crimes — double the national clearance average of around 15 percent.

King said the Sheriff’s Office uses portable radar trailers, partners with other agencies in news conferences to address highway safety; uses unmarked cruisers; corresponds with those reported to have violated traffic laws; and thanks people who report violations and unsafe conditions. He said the agency prefers voluntary compliance over  ticketing and fines to address traffic concerns.

He noted York County Jail initiated a Medication Assisted Treatment program serving 80 residents who have substance use disorder. It is the largest county jail program of its kind in Maine. Everyone released leaves the jail with health-related items and literature detailing available public service assistance.

He said the agency is employing a variety of short- and long-term strategies to address the corrections labor shortage. “It is equally important during this time of short staffing that we strive to ensure our employees’ wellness and resilience — employees are our most valuable asset,” King said.

There is a gym at the county government building, he noted, and a confidential employee assistance program. The agency has developed, with NAMI-Maine, a peer support group that provides briefings for law enforcement deputies and corrections officers whenever a critical incident occurs.

“I have been the sheriff through difficult times,” said King. “Someone once said calm seas do not make a skilled sailor. I think this rings true for law enforcement leadership. Over the past eight years I have led the Sheriff’s Office through numerous critical incidents, through criminal justice reform and the ‘defunding of the police’ movement, an unprecedented opioid crisis as well as the COVID pandemic. While we were the first jail to suffer a major COVID outbreak, we soon became a model of COVID mitigation in a congregate setting.”

King said he has recently earned an Executive Leadership Certificate from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, a Certified Jail Manager designation from the American Jail Association — one of three in Maine to do so — completed a Prison Rape Elimination Act training class and attended a Jail Management Training Academy for sheriffs, hosted by the National Institute of Corrections and FBI.

“As a sheriff, I am proud to say the York County Sheriff’s Office is accredited, a distinction held by just 13 other law enforcement agencies across the state,” said King, noting York County is the sole Maine sheriff’s office to hold the certification. “During our review, we found our policies and procedures were sound, aligned with law enforcement best practices, requiring a few minor adjustments to comply with MLEAP standards.”

“This is not the time for on-the-job training, and I have the education and experience to lead the Sheriff’s Office another four years,” King concluded.

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