CBS 13 takes in-depth look at officer-involved shootings in Maine

STATEWIDE (WGME) – CBS 13 is taking an in depth look at officer-involved shootings in Maine. Over the past three months we’ve been collecting data and speaking to those on every side of this very complex issue.

Here you’ll find a comprehensive look at how officer-involved shootings affect lives, families and careers in our state.

The Maine Attorney General’s Office keeps track of all officer involved shootings in Maine. That means any time a police officer, sheriff’s deputy or game warden fires their weapon there’s a review.

The Attorney General’s office has been doing this since 1995, and according to state records Maine law enforcement officers were involved in 120 shootings between 1995 and 2016. 55 of the shootings were fatal.

Between 1995 and 2005 Maine officers fired their weapons 40 times. We saw that number double between 2006 and 2016 with the attorney general reviewing 80 officer involved shooting cases.

To see how Maine compared to others states with similar population sizes we contacted the attorney generals and state police departments in New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island and Delaware.

In a 10 year period between 2005 and 2015 Vermont had the fewest amount of cases at 30. Rhode Island had 31, New Hampshire had 33 and Delaware had 36. Maine saw a significantly higher amount with 77 officer involved shootings.

The executive director of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association Robert Schwartz told CBS 13 he doesn’t know why Maine’s numbers are higher than the other states.

“A person with a gun in new Hampshire can be just as dangerous as a person in Maine or any of these other places,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz went on to say he’s surprised the numbers aren’t higher.

“We’ve been fortunate in Maine we don’t have many shootings,” Schwartz said. “I guess one may say one is too many, but compared to the climate today in the public, the people the police deal with they’re dealing with the mentally ill, the drug users, they’re dealing with a lot of people it’s surprising there aren’t more.”

The Attorney General’s Office declined an interview for this story but did provide us with the guidelines they use in their investigation. Investigators look at whether self-defense or the defense of others was reasonably generated by the facts of the case. Under Maine law to be legally justified in using deadly force in self-defense two requirements must be met.

First, the person must actually and reasonably believe deadly force is imminently threatened against them or someone else, and, second, the person must actually and reasonably believe deadly force is necessary to counter that imminent threat.

According to the Attorney General’s Office every officer involved shooting in Maine has been deemed legally justified since 1995.

To learn more about how the Attorney General's Office investigates officer-involved shootings, click here.

To see the story of a family affected by an officer-involved shooting, click here.

To see the "use of force" training officers go through, click here.

To hear from an officer involved in a deadly shooting, click here.

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