Sheriff uses experience, planning in multi-faceted job

Tue, 10/02/2018 - 8:30am

Family violence, IT crimes and lifesaving drugs are not part of most workplaces, but for Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Brackett, they are a daily part of the job.

At his office overlooking Route 1 in Wiscasset, Brackett applies 30-plus years' experience to watching the law enforcement horizon. From this viewpoint, he directs a staff of 45 which includes detectives, chief deputy, special services commander, prisoner transport personnel, court security, process servers and administration.

Besides law enforcement, the sheriff is chief executive officer. So negotiating contracts, staff training and cost-cutting programs are all part of the mix, as is Two Bridges Regional Jail.

Brackett grew up in Gardiner. He graduated from Gardiner High School, got a criminal justice degree from the University of Maine at Augusta and graduated from the police academy in 1987.

“I’m an avid sportsman so originally I thought about becoming a game warden,” he told the Boothbay Register. “But I started out working part time at the Kennebec County Jail in 1985 and fell in love with the job.” Working in law enforcement for the county held greater appeal for Brackett because it brings more diversity and a larger patrol area with rural communities.

Between that first job and his current one, Brackett has served as a deputy sheriff in Kennebec and Lincoln counties, chief of police in Damariscotta and was elected sheriff in 2002.

The nature of his office requires him to balance corrections, safety and public service efforts. Resources are regularly called on to transport prisoners, provide mutual aid, conduct video arraignments and patrol rural areas.

A community corrections work crew helps nonprofits by painting or mowing a ball field,cleaning a public boat landing, or sorting clothes at a free clothing closet. The work may help eligible prisoners reduce their sentences, learn new skills and give back to the community.

Budget management is key to the sheriff’s work. To help reduce costs, Brackett’s office manages contracts with outside providers. Its agreement with Maine Pretrial Services averages 35 to 55 low-risk offenders not in the jail awaiting trial.

Another contract is with the Addiction Resource Center which works with those returning to the community from pre trial or a sentence and who have addiction, substance abuse or mental health issues.

According to a U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics study, about 68 percent of U.S. prisoners are re-arrested within three years of their release, 79 percent within six years, and 83 percent within nine years.

Lincoln County is different. Brackett called this “one of our most successful programs,” and pointed out the less than 20 percent recidivism rate here. The services help achieve a 100 percent employment rate for clients among employers networked around the county. Fewer returns to the jail mean lower costs for county taxpayers.

Unique in Maine to Brackett’s office are contracts for services with local towns. In one, through a partnership with the county commissioners and 12 towns, his office provides domestic animal control services. Another has LCSO providing shellfish enforcement for the five coastal towns with shellfish committees.

Asked about the types of crime he sees occurring, he said it’s "a bit of everything,” but as much as 90 percent of the crimes relate to abuse of alcohol or drugs. Brackett is now also seeing more technology-based crimes. These include social media, laptop computers, cell phones and other devices, particularly in domestic violence cases. These create interesting challenges for investigators in gaining access to the evidence.

Overall, he said the serious crime statistics for the county are good but he is seeing more heroin and fentanyl overdoses. He added, "We see more verbal and physical altercations than in the past. There’s an undertone of anger and it’s disconcerting.”

Crisis intervention is now part of LCSO training and includes de-escalation techniques and the social aspects of addiction.

Brackett sees his part of his job as helping his office adapt for upcoming challenges. To do that, he watches what’s happening at the state, New England and national levels to determine “what the future challenges will be and how do we keep pace.”