Something that has frustrated me in the aftermath of the Lewiston shootings is the consistent fawning over law enforcement. As a writer and alleged commentator, I try to give credit where credit is due. Unfortunately, every piece of news that comes out about police actions before and after the shooting has indicated cowardice and incompetence. 

Take the 48-hour manhunt, which caused enough damage to the economy that Gov. Mills applied for federal business relief. Reporting indicates that 12 hours passed between the discovery of Card’s vehicle the night of Oct. 25 and “intensive” efforts to track him from there. That’s inexcusable. I cannot imagine what on earth they were doing or waiting for.

There were plenty of K-9 units in the state, and no part of Maine is 12 hours away from another. The minute you know you have a manhunt situation, you bring in dogs ASAP. I was in Lewiston the night after the shootings, when the suspect was still “on the loose,” and I saw non-medical helicopters overhead. I don’t know how much helicopter fuel costs, but I’d wager it’s a lot more expensive than dog kibble. 

Card’s body was only found because the owner of the recycling company he had worked for called the police to ask if they’d checked the overflow parking lot. I get not being able to find a parking space, but not being able to find an entire parking lot? If the situation weren’t so tragic, it would be worthy of a Keystone Cops gag. 

There were also smaller mistakes in the response. Going by the “broken windows” theory of policing, smaller mistakes generate and lead to bigger mistakes. These mistakes include communication failures, such as failing to get and release an accurate casualty count or notifying families of deaths and injuries in an expedient manner. Despite multiple deaf Mainers being victims in the shootings, state police failed to get an American Sign Language interpreter at their news conferences until the second day of the manhunt … and then positioned her so she was cut out of the frame.

Prior to the murders, Robert Card was basically a walking collection of red flags. The Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office received reports that Card posed a danger to the public from Card’s own family and from the United States Army Reserve. They knew he had guns and had threatened to use them. When sent to do a wellness check, deputies saw that Card was most likely at home but did not enter because he didn’t answer the door.


Therefore, they did not take him into protective custody or initiate yellow flag gun-removal proceedings. The reason they didn’t make an effort to complete the wellness check and follow up with the threat? Michael Sauschuck, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, a guy who might be considered Maine’s “top cop,” said that “the deputy did the right thing by not attempting to force his way into Card’s home, where he suspected Card may have been hiding, based solely on reports from his Army Reserve unit that Card had threatened to carry out mass shootings.”

The reason we give cops and deputies guns, body armor, fancy cars, and leeway to operate with force and do things regular citizens aren’t allowed to do is because they are supposed to protect the rest of us from danger – by putting themselves in danger, if necessary. If they won’t do that, what’s the point? The thin blue line has melted into a puddle. If you need someone to harass a homeless person or arrest a drug user, call the police. If you need someone to actively save your life? You’re out of luck, good buddy. 

I find my jaw clenching when people say that law enforcement officers were heroes in this situation. With the possible exception of the cops who drove victims to the hospital in their cruisers because they couldn’t wait for the ambulances, they were not heroic. The overall response was disorganized and cowardly. The real heroes were the ones in Schemengees and Just-In-Time Recreation.

At Just-In-Time Recreation, Michael Deslauriers, Jason Walker and Thomas Conrad charged the shooter, unarmed. They were killed. Bob and Lucy Violette, both in their 70s, put their bodies between the bullets and the children in the youth bowling league that was present. At Schemengees, Joe Walker was found with a butcher knife next to his hand, having tried to take out the shooter with it.  

Police consistently put their own safety above that of the general public. This is a perfectly normal human response; I myself wouldn’t rush into danger. But society gives the police special powers like qualified immunity, the ability to carry weapons, to make arrests, etc., based on the myth that they will rush into danger and protect innocent civilians. They don’t. They won’t. It’s a lie.  

Members of law enforcement won’t prevent violent crime. They won’t stop it in progress. They won’t put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of the general public. They do not deserve the amount of money and respect we currently give them.


I’m concerned that the next time budget negotiations come around, law enforcement units will use this tragedy to get more taxpayer money. We should not fall for it. I want a 10% across-the-board budget cut to every law enforcement agency that had a hand in this fiasco, and I want it reinvested into community mental health programs.

The city of Lewiston’s police department’s approved 2024 budget was $9.6 million. (By comparison, its “social services” budget is $1.1 million.) Take 10% of that $9.6 million, $960,000, and imagine what you could do for community mental health services.

People often say they want to run government like a business. Well, this is clearly a bad investment. Time to redirect funds.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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