Washburn closes police department temporarily after chief leaves job

2 months ago

WASHBURN, Maine — The town of Washburn has closed its police department after its interim chief stepped down.

The department closed temporarily on Feb. 29, according to Town Manager Donna Turner. There was no public notice of the closure on the town’s website or on social media. 

Washburn, a town of about 1,500, is the latest small Aroostook County community to be without a police department. Limestone closed its station in 2023 and others have struggled with a lack of officers. Washburn police calls now go directly to the Houlton dispatch center and the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office.

The department was without leadership since Police Chief Cyr Martin left the post at the end of February, Turner said.

“Cyr was slated to be done on Jan. 31, 2024, but stayed through February,” Turner said Friday. “We thought we had another chief hired, [but] he changed his mind. No chief, no department.” 

The closure followed the resignation of former Sgt. Chandler Cole, who was later arrested and charged with falsifying documents in the case of missing Washburn man Erik Foote. The closure was unrelated to the Foote case, Turner said.

The department had four officers, including Martin, in 2021. In January, there were three on staff. Following Cole’s resignation and Martin’s departure, the only officer remaining was Doran Hurlburt-Labree, who had not yet completed Maine Criminal Justice Academy training. The officer now works in Ashland, Turner said.

At Washburn’s annual town meeting on March 19, residents tabled the police department’s 2024 budget of $348,711. 

Residents will vote in June on whether to hire personnel or close the department permanently.

“We decided possibly now was the time to take a look at what we should do — try to find employees or close,” Turner said. 

Martin is also the police chief and town manager of Ashland. In a letter to residents in Washburn’s 2024 town report, Martin said he couldn’t keep doing the Washburn job along with his other duties.

“As most of you know, I was hired to temporarily help in getting the Washburn police through a rough time when the chief at that time resigned,” Martin wrote. “Well, four years later I knew I could not keep doing the job. I realized it was too much for me to handle.”

Martin was not immediately available for comment Friday.

Correction: The story has been amended to reflect that residents tabled the police budget.