PORTLAND, MAINE -- Dancing breaks out during a Juneteenth rally and protest in Deering Oaks Park in Portland. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Bangor Daily News staff earned several first place awards in the 2021 Maine Press Association contest. The annual awards were presented on Saturday in a virtual ceremony.

Erin Rhoda, Callie Ferguson and Josh Keefe were honored with the association’s Freedom of Information award for their investigative series “Lawmen off Limits.” The series, which also won first place in the investigations category, exposed a systemic lack of accountability among Maine’s sheriffs using public discipline records that were hidden from view and not readily accessible until the BDN fought to make them so.

Troy R. Bennett and Linda Coan O’Kresik each won two first place awards for their visual journalism.

Bennett was awarded first place in the people category for a photo of a Juneteenth rally and protest held in Deering Oaks Park in Portland.

And O’Kresik’s photo of an empty gym won first place in the sports category:

Bangor, Maine — January 14, 2021 — Bangor High boys host Nokomis in the first game of the COVID-19 season at an empty Red Barry Gym.

Bennett also won first place for this unique video about a ​​Portland woman who convinced her neighbor to dress up like a werewolf and sell spooky singing telegrams for Halloween.

And O’Kresik won first place in the news video category for her interview with a Newport mail carrier about the crush of packages being sent during the pandemic.

Former BDN reporter Eesha Pendharkar won best education story for her coverage of racism experienced by Bangor High School students.

Coralie Cross won first place for this graphic on a Maine Focus story about police misconduct.

Maine birding legend Bob Duchesne was named best local columnist, and the BDN’s Cross and Amy Allen won the best young reader engagement idea category.

Dan MacLeod is the managing editor of the Bangor Daily News. He's an Orland native who moved to Portland in 2002 and now lives in Unity. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the...