Unanswered questions linger regarding a July 911 call to the South Portland Police Department asking police to respond to the home of the Chair of the South Portland Human Rights Commission Pedro Vazquez.
Based on an anonymous tip, the Maine Wire filed a public records request with the South Portland Police Department seeking records concerning a child welfare 911 call regarding Vazquez.
In response, the South Portland PD provided a heavily redacted 911 call transcript which shows a clearly distressed and panicking woman — who is not identified in the transcript — calling on behalf of a friend who had previously provided them with Vazquez’s address.
Neither Vazquez nor the subject of the call are identified in the transcript, and the precise details of what prompted the call are substantially redacted.
The caller told dispatch that they wanted to remain anonymous, and that they were “freaking out right now” as they tried to provide dispatch with the name and address for a police response.
The caller’s description of what occurred at Vazquez’s residence is redacted, which makes it unclear what was happening at the time of the call.
The caller states that the friend they were calling on behalf of also wanted to remain anonymous and did not want to talk to dispatch.
Dispatch told the caller that they don’t mind sending somebody to the address, but asked why they “don’t want to talk to us.”
“Are they not concerned? Or what’s going on?” Dispatch asked the caller.
“No, no. [REDACTED] very concerned right now, um [REDACTED] panicking too,” the caller said, adding that they were “the one who had the guts to call.”
Six minutes into the call, the caller told dispatch that their friend texted them saying that “the situation might be resolved.”
Dispatch told the caller that they could still send police to the address just to make sure.
The caller, who was apparently struggling to get the address from their friend, eventually says that their friend is “gonna hate me,” apparently for calling the police, but that for “[REDACTED] safety, I’m not sure.”
The caller then says that they want to cancel the police response to the address, even though they would “really like to,” because the caller wanted “to respect [REDACTED].”
When asked Wednesday by the Maine Wire if the City of South Portland or city officials were aware of or have a comment on the July 911 call, South Portland spokesperson Shara Dee said that the city is “not aware of such a call in July that classifies as a domestic violence call.”
“As you are aware, the transcript of the call that the South Portland Police Department provided has been redacted because it includes protected confidential information that the City is prohibited by law from releasing,” Dee said.
“The City does not have further comment,” she added.
Vazquez did not respond to a phone call or an email seeking comment.
The anonymous source who provided the original tip to the Maine Wire about the 911 call claimed that members of the City Council have been aware of the incident since July. The source also claimed that Vazquez became confrontational with police when they arrived in response to the call, threatening to have the officers fired, though the Maine Wire has not confirmed that detail.
The Maine Wire has requested the bodycam footage from cameras worn by the police officers who responded to the call.
South Portland City Councilors either declined to comment or did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.
Vazquez became the Chair of the South Portland permanent Human Rights Commission in January 2021, which was established in response to George Floyd’s death in May 2020, and is charged with pushing diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in city policy.
Vazquez told Amjambo Africa that the Commission is “rooted in the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s rooted in abolitionist work, it’s rooted in our community’s realization and recognition that this is a true problem that exists, despite what you hear in some circles, and a real commitment to doing something about it.”
In February 2021, Vazquez and the Human Rights Commission advocated for police reform in South Portland that would require more training about racism and discouraging a police response to calls related to homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health.
“The department has been kind of a catch-all for many, many social ills that really they shouldn’t have to be dealing with,” Vazquez said, per Fox 23 Maine. “We see that there’s significant opportunity to reduce harm and reduce those type of instances and keep people alive.”
Vazquez also sits on the board of the South Portland Civil Service Commission, a City Councilor-appointed board that deals with all personnel matters for the city’s police and fire departments.
His position on the Civil Service Commission was thrown into jeopardy in July when the South Portland City Council removed him from his post due to frequent attendance issues at board meetings.
It came to light during the July 6 City Council meeting that Vazquez was dealing with a “family emergency” that caused him to miss several Civil Service Commission meetings — for which reason City Councilor Natalie West was asked to find someone to appoint to the Commission to take Vazquez’s place.
Although the agenda for the July 6 Council meeting said that Vazquez had resigned from his position, Vazquez, who was in attendance at the meeting, denied that he had resigned.
“I’m not a quitter. I don’t resign from anything. What actually happened is what I consider to be a controversial vote…There’s some discrepancies in terms of how it was handled. I don’t think it was clean. I have some concerns about it,” Vazquez told the City Council.
The City Council eventually voted to reinstate Vazquez to the Commission after two City Councilors brought up Vazquez’s race and “marginalized” status as a reason for his attendance issues.
“That ability to attend a meeting is really for people who have that kind of privilege or time and resources to get to every single meeting,” City Councilor Jocelyn Leighton said.
“That isn’t always the case for some folks, especially when, as [Brendan Williams, also a Civil Service Commission member] was talking about marginalized communities and disenfranchised communities having a voice on these committees we need to make allowances because the face remains that these things are designed to work for some and not for others,” Leighton said.
City Councilor Deqa Dhalac, who is the first Somali-American to serve as a Maine legislator in the House of Representatives, also brought up Vazquez’s status as a person of color.
“I don’t see any empathy towards all those things that he experienced this year from the members of the Commission…As immigrants, as people of color, as minorities who have so, so many challenges,” Dhalac said.
“I know every human being has a challenge…but we have several more other layers than that, that we have to deal with every single day…I’m just saying the fact that there was no empathy towards Mr. Vazquez for all those hardships that he had, that he asked for – and there’s a letter to ask that – and he got denied,” she said.
Councilor West expressed her sadness that the Vazquez situation had become so political and polarized.
“I feel very sad that this has gotten to be political with people characterizing it as the white man against people who aren’t white, stuff like that because I listened to the full tape [of the Civil Service Commission meeting], and I just didn’t hear that…I feel terrible that this is being polarized tonight the way it is,” West said.
Councilor Leighton, in a concluding remark, blamed racism for painting Vazquez as having resigned from the Commission.
“The fact is, we’re putting rules above justice. And the justice is, Pedro Vazquez did not resign from this committee. So this is not actually a vacancy,” Leighton said.
“The ‘resignation’ was imprinted on him in a racist way. That is the reality of what’s happening. And it is white men opposed to people of color. That is a reality in our county,” she said.
The South Portland City Council then voted 4-3 to reinstate Vazquez to the Civil Service Commission.
In 2020, the Portland Press Herald honored Vazquez by dubbing him among their “Mainers to be Thankful For.”
Read the full 911 call transcript below: