PORTLAND, Maine — Michael Sauschuck was confirmed as Portland’s 19th police chief Monday night, as the City Council unanimously supported the recommendation of City Manager Mark Rees.

The council vote ended a nearly six-month search and vetting process, during which Rees said finalists were run through a gantlet of tactical and problem-solving simulations to prove their mettle.

One of Sauschuck’s challengers for the position came from within the force. Cmdr. Vern Malloch told the council at its Monday night meeting that even though he also applied for the job, “you couldn’t have made a better choice” than Sauschuck. More than 80 people applied for the opening and five were invited for in-depth interviews with the city’s search panel, led by Rees.

Malloch said he told Sauschuck, who has run the department as acting chief since previous Police Chief James Craig departed in August, early in the running he would not speak ill of his fellow officer even though they were competitors for the post. Craig left to become the chief of police in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“He’s a terrific leader of the organization,” Malloch told the council of Sauschuck. “He’s done a great job. He’s fair, he’s compassionate, and he has the utmost respect of everyone inside the Police Department.”

The council’s confirmation of Sauschuck to take over the office permanently was declared an emergency measure to allow him to begin in the position immediately. Sauschuck’s starting annual salary is $95,000.

“I think you’re coming in at a tremendous time,” Councilor Ed Suslovic told Sauschuck, lauding the department’s command staff and officers for what he called “professionalism, dedication and commitment … day in and day out.”

Sauschuck, a former Marine, has been a member of the Portland Police Department for 15 years after four years as a reserve officer in Old Orchard Beach. Among the accolades on his resume are the Sgt. Michael J. Wallace Award given by the Superior Officers Association for leadership in the department and named for a longtime Portland officer known as a mentor to the younger police on the force, and the Enrique Camarena Memorial Award from the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. Camarena was a federal drug enforcement agent who was killed in the line of duty by Mexican drug traffickers in 1985.

As chief, Sauschuck will continue overseeing an approximately $13.4 million annual budget and more than 200 employees. One employee, Sauschuck’s wife, Detective Mary Sauschuck, will report to detective department leaders and other administrative intermediaries to avoid workplace conflicts, city spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said Tuesday.

The new chief told the council Monday it’s “an honor and privilege” to be hired for the position. He admitted that his lifelong dream had been to ascend to the level of “street sergeant,” directly leading the officers patrolling the city, but he began to take “great pride” in holding the department’s top position during his months as the interim chief.

“I don’t throw the word ‘family’ around lightly, but we are a family,” Sauschuck said of the Portland Police Department.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.