Col. John Cote's Response to PPH Opinion Piece

From the desk of Col. John Cote, Chief of the Maine State Police

We are aware of the recent court decision regarding the suppression of evidence in a traffic stop conducted by Cpl. John Darcy in 2019.  It is with great disappointment we learn of how this has been interpreted by some as a ruling that Cpl. Darcy engaged in racial profiling or that we as an agency condone illegal activities by our troopers. 

This ruling is a judicial finding on whether the traffic stop was supported by the requisite reasonable suspicion that a violation of law was occurring.   We respect that such judicial review is necessary to safeguard constitutional protections, clarify future enforcement practices, and discourage overzealous or illegal practices.  These court decisions are how we refine our practices to ensure we are doing things right.
Case law guidance on this specific matter describes when an officer stops a vehicle, the officer needs “articulable reasonable suspicion” that a violation may be occurring.  It is a term of art, but it is most accepted as more than a mere hunch; it is an objectively reasonable belief that an officer must articulate. In this case, the judge determined from the evidence presented in the suppression hearing that the justification for the vehicle stop did not meet the necessary legal burden.  The written opinion makes no finding that Cpl. Darcy engaged in racial profiling.

Motions to suppress are a normal part of the criminal justice process.  Our full review of this judicial finding is continuing and will include examining all related documents, digital media, and court transcripts.  The case in question was reviewed and adopted for prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  Two recent motions to suppress in federal drug trafficking cases involving vehicle stops by Cpl. Darcy were denied, affirming the lawful nature of the stops and allowing the cases to move forward to prosecution. 

The Maine State Police remains committed to fair and equitable enforcement of laws and will continue to focus efforts towards impaired drivers, reducing crashes, and interdicting the flow of illegal drugs.  Our members see firsthand the countless crashes caused by impaired drivers resulting in injuries and deaths along with the chaos, death, crime, and violence that illicit drugs bring to our State.  We know our work is an important piece of the overall effort to reduce the opioid epidemic in Maine and keep our state one of the safest in the nation.


Col John Cote
Chief, Maine State Police