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Maine lawmakers ask law enforcement community difficult questions about police tactics and racial bias

Maine Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck was in the hot seat Wednesday as lawmakers peppered him with questions about racial profiling.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck and Attorney General Aaron Frey appeared before a special joint committee meeting of lawmakers Wednesday. Lawmakers peppered them with questions about racial profiling and current training practices.

"Do you believe that the Maine State Police policing that takes place in this state, operates within institutional racism?" Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross asked.

"Systemic racism exists across systems. I think all systems to include law enforcement," Sauschuck responded.

The meeting comes after racial justice protests have been taking place across the country and in Maine. 

Sauschuck said officers in Maine must complete a 300-hour program before they can step out on the street. He also said if an officer goes to the full academy, they have to complete a 720-hour course.

"You're not allowed to work until you have those proper certification levels," Sauschuck said.

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He also said there were a number of policy changes made on Friday, including officers must now report to their supervisor when seeing another officer use unreasonable or unnecessary use of force.

"We can look at a policy and we can change a policy. Can we turn that oil tanker around on a dime? No, we have to work with systems across the board. We have to work together and that process is really just beginning," Sauschuck said.

Sauschuck also detailed what the Maine Information Analysis Center does. He said it is used as an information-gathering tool. He said it does not conduct surveillance. 

Some lawmakers were not convinced.

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