Four Things to know on this Thursday in Maine: Honor Flight Maine telethon today, FBI looking for fugitive, and more.

NEWS CENTER Maine can help you get your day started right with a quick look at the stories making headlines across the state.

1. HONOR FLIGHT MAINE TELETHON TODAY

Today is NEWS CENTER Maine’s annual Honor Flight Maine telethon, where Mainers can help raise money to help send our veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials built in their honor. The phone lines, manned by NEWS CENTER Maine staff and volunteers, will be open from 5 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. $700 is enough to send one veteran on the trip. If you are in the Portland area, you can call 855-875-4328 to donate, and if you are in the Bangor area, you can call 855-874-9529.

Take our PULSE poll today to express how you honor our veterans!2. RANKED CHOICE DECISIONS EXPECTED TODAY

Candidates and voters should learn today who won the Second Congressional District race: incumbent Republican Bruce Poliquin, or Democrat challenger Jared Golden. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap has spent the past five days processing ballots from the 375 towns and cities in CD2. That work continued yesterday, despite uncertainty created by a lawsuit filed earlier this week against ranked choice. That suit was filed by Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin and three others, claiming the RCV process violates the U.S. Constitution.

Ranked choice decisions expected Thursday

The FBI is looking for a man from Springvale, and is willing to pay for information leading to his arrest. The bureau is offering a $5,000 reward for anyone who can lead them to Joshua Weldon, who disappeared after posting bail on a drug charge. He was arrested in August and charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl. The FBI believes Weldon is with his girlfriend, and should be considered armed and dangerous.

FBI offers reward for information on ‘armed and dangerous’ man in Maine

4. MAINE CYCLIST RAISING MONEY FOR CHILDHOOD CANCER RESEARCH DIES

James Dobson, a man from Kittery who was cycling across the country to raise money for childhood cancer research, was killed yesterday. He was riding his recumbent cycle from New England to San Diego, California, and documenting his trip on social media. Dobson was on his bike in Lamar County, Mississippi when he was struck by a car. Police there say a storm affected visibility, and that the driver who hit Dobson probably didn’t see him until it was too late. Dobson was hoping to raise $10,000. After news of his death yesterday, thousands of dollars poured in to his GoFundMe page to surpass that goal.

Maine cyclist killed while on cross-country charity ride

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The Thinning Blue Line: A police shortage in Maine could soon get a lot worse (or is that better?)

Many departments have multiple positions open, but supervisors are struggling to find qualified candidates to fill them. So what happens when a large number of veteran officers retire?

Maine is no exception.

Many police departments, statewide, have multiple positions open, but supervisors are struggling to find qualified candidates to fill them.

Even more troubling, what those numbers look like moving forward, when a large number of veteran officers can retire.

Helping people. As cliche as it might sound it’s the No. 1 reason many police officers put on the badge.

A former high school English teacher, Tyler Plourde is now a trooper with the Maine State Police. “I wanted to have an impact on my community being able to help people”.

Officer Colin Gordan is a Falmouth police officer. “People ultimately get into to police work to help people, preserve order. As corny and cheesy as that sounds it’s true.”

What’s also true is there are fewer and fewer people willing to do the job. Many departments in Maine are down two, five, even 13 police officers.

Lt. John Kilbride, a 20-year veteran of the Falmouth Police Department, says that’s an incredible strain for a department. He says, “it’s nerve-wracking, you can’t just pluck a police officer off a tree.”

There are a lot of reasons for the police shortage.

  • Low pay, when compared to the high risks of the job
  • The negative attitude some people have toward police
  • A difficult and lengthy hiring process
  • Young people entering the workforce who are making a balance between work and life a top priority (something that any cop will tell you is not easy)

Maine State Police Lt. David Tripp says while his agency has been successful shoring up their vacancy rate, he admits being down troopers can cause a strain. “We are pushing some would say beyond our capacity with the services we’re providing.”

It’s a problem that could get a lot worse.

The Maine State Police currently has 341 officers. In two years, 15 percent will be eligible to retire. That’s 51 state troopers.

There are 161 Portland police officers. Over the course of the next five years, more than 25 percent are or will be eligible for retirement. That’s more than 44 officers.

The Maine Warden Service is facing similar issues. There are 125 game wardens. Today, 23 percent can retire. That’s more than 40.

Even smaller agencies are not immune.

The South Portland Police Department has 55 officers. Right now, 26 percent can retire. That’s 14 police officers.

Lt. Tripp says, “so when we look at that number that could be fairly high, 51 potentially retiring, that does cause us some concern”.

Those numbers are forcing departments to be more flexible and take a closer look at how they’re recruiting. Some are using social media and incentives or signing bonuses to attract candidates.

But finding interested candidates isn’t the only challenge, so is finding qualified ones.

Lt. John Kilbride says, “I will go without before I put forth someone I’m not comfortable with.”

When a department is down officers, it’s forced to play defense—prioritizing calls as well as cases.

That can not only impact communities, it can place a bigger burden on the rank and file.

“You start putting stressors on really good people and they start evaluating whether they want to stick around, it’s a sinking ship. You’ve hit the iceberg,” says Lt. Kilbride.

NEWS CENTER Maine spoke with officers from agencies across the state, who did not want to go on camera. They told us “a lot of times it’s like swimming upstream” … “investigations don’t get the attention they deserve, because they’re not enough officers” … “everyone loves to take video of you hoping you screw up” and “a lot of people don’t understand our training or why we do the things we do.”

Joe Loughlin, former deputy chief of the Portland Police Department and a national law enforcement consultant, says the stress on law enforcement officers today is enormous.

Loughlin says, “for years we’ve been saying we can do less with more, well that doesn’t work anymore, you need people”.

“These are tough days for this profession and tough days for the citizens because in the end, it’s the good citizens who suffer,” says Loughlin.

Loughlin, as well as those still in law enforcement, says they’re confident that, while it won’t happen right away, this shortage will pass and ultimately enough people will answer the call to protect and serve.

Lt. Tripp says, “I’ve had citizens say to me why would you do this job? Why would you want to do a job with everything going on today? Police officers being shot at or shot. Why would you do it? For me personally, if it’s not us, then who is it?”

Two New England things to know this morning.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE MORNING REPORT LIVE FROM 4:30 TO 7 A.M.

1. NEW HAMPSHIRE GUNMAN IN CUSTODY AFTER 24-HOUR MANHUNT

Christopher Thomas is in custody this morning after being found by police on Farmington Road in Rochester, New Hampshire. The search began on noon Sunday when someone reported seeing a man with a rifle in the Walmart parking lot, and then disappeared into the woods. Thomas reportedly fired several shots at officers, but no one was injured. He now faces charges of reckless conduct.

Armed and dangerous man in custody after eluding police in Rochester, NH

2. SHRIMP SEASON NEWS EXPECTED THIS WEEK

Maine fisherman will find out later this week if the shrimp season will be canceled again. An advisory panel that reports to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is meeting on Thursday to make a recommendation about having a season in 2019. Seasons have been canceled the past 5 years, due to concerns about warming waters in the Gulf of Maine.

Missing hunter found deceased in Maine woods by wardens

Babula was found deceased this afternoon at 3:00pm. Babula was located by a team of game wardens, searching wooded areas for known tree stands that Babula would use.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has been notified.

According to the Maine Warden Service, wardens are searching for Todd Babula, 59, from Portsmouth, New Hampshire in New Portland.

Babula is said to have a camp in the area and has been a deer hunter for many years.

On Friday November 9, 2018, Babula’s truck became stuck on a backwoods road, where Babula had local neighbors help him get his truck unstuck later that afternoon.

Babula’s uncle dropped him off to hunt near his truck on Friday afternoon at approximately 1:00 pm, and has not been seen or heard from since.

Babula’s uncle reported him missing Saturday evening around 5pm, where game wardens responded and found Babula’s vehicle, and used several different resources and techniques to try and find Babula on Saturday night.

Another search was conducted on Sunday morning, but there were no signs of Babula.

If anyone has any information regarding Todd Babula’s whereabouts, you are asked to call the Augusta State Regional Communication Center at (207)-624-7076.

Political Puppet Sen. Collins ‘very concerned’ about Whitaker’s appointment, in an attempt to win back credentials with Maine Voters

Rape apologist Susan Collins said she has a group of senators who are going to pressure Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow a bill to protect Mueller’s investigation to be debated.

Speaking in Brunswick, Collins said she’s “very concerned” about the appointment of Matt Whitaker to serve as acting attorney general because of his comments about setting parameters for the probe into whether Trump’s presidential campaign coordinated with Russia in 2016.

Collins believes such a bill could pressure Trump to let Mueller’s investigation run its course.

“I recognize that the president is never going to sign such a bill, but I think Senate debate and passage of the bill would send a very strong message to the president,” she said.

She said ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions proved himself to be “an individual of great integrity” by recusing himself and allowing sufficient resources for Mueller to complete the probe. Under Sessions, the investigation was overseen by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Trump forced out Sessions and on Wednesday installed Whitaker, a Republican Party loyalist, to oversee the special counsel investigation. Democrats quickly called for Whitaker to recuse himself, as well, because of past comments in which he was critical of the investigation.

Whitaker’s past comments include a radio interview in which he maintained there was no evidence of collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. He also wrote in an op-ed that Mueller would be straying outside his mandate if he investigated Trump family finances.

Frank Thorp V

@frankthorp

Sen SUSAN COLLINS: “I believe that we should bring to the Senate floor legislation that would put restrictions on the ability of President Donald Trump to fire the Special Counsel.”

Collins said she has a group of senators who are going to pressure Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow the bill to be debated.

“It is time to bring the bill to the Senate floor,” she said, adding that she’d vote in favor of it.

The former centrist told a group of reporters that she’s keeping a positive outlook about the coming year. She said Democrats seizing control of the House on Election Day means both parties will have to work together.

I, personally a former supporter of Collins,  now cannot wait until she’s voted out and her legacy is sealed.

Traitor.

“Love Prevails”: Floridians Celebrate Massive Restoration of Voting Rights to People with Felonies

At least 1.4 million people have regained the right to vote in Florida, following the passage of Amendment 4, a statewide initiative to re-enfranchise people with felony convictions who have completed their sentences, excluding people convicted of murder or sex offenses. The amendment passed overwhelmingly, with 64.5 percent of the vote. It needed 60 percent to pass. The win will permanently alter politics in a state that elected Republican Ron DeSantis as Florida governor by just over 55,000 votes, according to the latest numbers. DeSantis defeated Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, who was vying to be the first African-American governor in Florida’s history. We speak with Desmond Meade, who spearheaded the fight for Amendment 4. Desmond Meade is the president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. He’s also chair of Floridians for a Fair Democracy. He is one of some 1.4 million people who has just regained his right to vote.

Protests in 18 Maine towns calling for protection of Mueller investigation

18 towns and cities in Maine joined more than 900 protests across the nation calling for protection of the Mueller investigation just a day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to resign.

(NEWS CENTER Maine) — Protests took place across Maine rallying to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

18 towns and cities in Maine joined more than 900 protests across the nation calling for protection of the Mueller investigation just a day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to resign.

The group Nobody Is Above The Law’s website says protests are planned for 5 p.m. Thursday in these Maine locations:

  • Augusta
  • Bangor
  • Bar Harbor
  • Belfast
  • Brunswick
  • Eastport
  • Ellsworth
  • Farmington
  • Houlton
  • Kittery
  • Lewiston
  • Newcastle
  • Norway
  • Portland
  • Prospect Harbor
  • Rockland
  • South Paris
  • Waterville

Critics worry that the newly appointed Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker may be unlikely to defend the investigation given the comments he has made about the probe which is investigating if Donald Trump colluded with Russians during his 2016 Presidential campaign.

Whitaker wrote an op-ed for CNN in 2017 arguing that Mueller was “dangerously close to crossing” a red line following reports he was looking into Trump’s finances.

Protesters believe that Whitaker who will now be overseeing the investigation should recuse himself from the investigation just as his predecessor and former boss, Jeff Sessions did.

How many people will show up to the protests remains to be seen.