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Maine State House police chief faces scrutiny over social media posts

Capitol Police Chief Russ Gauvin apologized for posts ‘inconsistent with my professional duties’

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine’s governor and public safety commissioner said they are troubled by the State House police chief’s social media posts deriding mask mandates, questioning the results of the presidential election and supporting a police officer who called for violence against Black Lives Matter protesters.

Gov. Janet Mills and Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck issued a statement Friday in which they said Capitol Police Chief Russ Gauvin assured them “of his commitment to upholding his duties and responsibilities, regardless of any personal beliefs.”

“We are troubled and concerned by what we have read and have asked that the matter be reviewed through existing personnel process to determine whether any state policies were violated,” they said.

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Leaders of the Legislature warned that State House police must maintain the confidence of lawmakers, state employees and the public.

“Should these professionals be unable to maintain public trust, they should tender their resignations,” Senate President Troy Jackson and House Speaker Ryan Fecteau said in a statement.

Gauvin, who is tasked with security of the State House and state office complex, issued an apology Friday in which he acknowledged social media posts that he shared or commented on “can be seen as inconsistent with my professional responsibilities.”

“My focus has always been to be fair and support law enforcement professionals. I certainly never intended for my social media account to ever bring my commitment to fair and professional law enforcement into question. I apologize for giving this impression and have removed my personal social media accounts,” he said.

The 13-officer Capitol Police force is responsible for security at Maine’s State House and other state office buildings. Gauvin has been chief since 2006.

His social media comments, posts and reactions were first reported by an alternative online news outlet, Mainer, which had screenshots.

The news reports come as security is stepped up at state capitals around the country following the breach of the U.S. Capitol.

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Maine State Police are assisting in the security effort in August ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, and an undisclosed number of Maine National Guard members are at the ready, should they be needed, a spokesman said.