FARMINGTON – Almost two years into the job, Farmington Police Chief Ken Charles has filled many of the gaps within his department. The newest officer to join the force is Donnie Gray, who lives in Farmington.
Gray attended high school in Richmond, Maine. After graduation he attended Norwich University in Vermont, where he obtained a degree in criminal justice on a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship. In 2014 he was commissioned as an armor officer, then entered the Signal Corps before deploying to Afghanistan for ten months in 2019-2020.
When Gray came home from his service overseas, he decided it was time to pursue his dream of becoming a law enforcement officer. His grandfather had been a Maine Game Warden, and he’d had interest in the field for a long time.
Gray graduated from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in the summer of 2021 with the 39th Basic Law Enforcement Training Program. The 39th BLETP was the largest graduating group in the Academy’s history, with a total of 67 graduates.
Following graduation Gray worked with the Portland Police Department, primarily on the Old Port beat. He said that the experience with the Portland PD was awesome, but that he wanted to work in a more rural area.
Gray checked out the Maine Forest Service and conservation law for four months in Houlton, but decided that wasn’t the best fit for him. Instead he accepted a conditional offer from Farmington Police Department, and started with the department at the end of October 2022.
Gray is starting classes for a master’s degree in management and leadership. When he’s not working or studying, he enjoys skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, fishing, and other outdoor activities, along with spending time with his family.
When asked why he chose Farmington, Gray credited the overall positive atmosphere of the community. The department leadership was also a contributing factor in his decision, along with the location of Farmington, a rural community within easy reach of his family in South Portland and Newry.
Each new hire goes through field training within the department, even if they are already a certified law enforcement officer. This field training is a proficiency and experience based program, requiring that an officer learn about the town and navigate through a variety of interactions and experiences with the guidance and assistance of a field training officer.
Gray has been working primarily with Sgt. Jesse Clements for field training, which is now wrapping up, Chief Charles said.
Charles is ‘greatly encouraged’ by the current level of staffing within the department. He said they hit rock bottom last year, like a lot of other departments, but he is thrilled with the quality of the officers they have on board now. In addition, having more of the positions filled within the department allows officers to explore specialized training, while not being stretched so thin; he hopes this will help with officer retention.
Currently the department has one patrol officer vacancy and one detective vacancy. At the start of the year, there were five vacant positions.
Charles noted the detective position is proving to be the most difficult to fill as they need someone with experience in law enforcement and investigations.