PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — During his 31-year tenure at the Presque Isle Police Department, Chief Naldo Gagnon has climbed the ranks from patrol officer to chief, been instrumental in the construction of the public safety building and worked tirelessly to advance training and bring in resources to improve his officers.
He thought that he’d retire as chief, he acknowledged Wednesday, and never leave the community where he had spent the majority of his career. But family is one thing that means more to Gagnon than public service, which is why he is making a move that brings an end to his 14-year career as police chief.
Gagnon announced late last week that he is resigning from the department to start a new career as the chief deputy for the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office. His last day is Nov. 12, and he will begin working at his new job three days later.
“It was a hard decision,” Gagnon said Wednesday. “But my two sons have settled in southern Maine, and I don’t want to be here without them. I want to be where they are.”
Gagnon’s son Samuel is a recent graduate of the medical biology program at the University of New England in Biddeford. His other son Theodore is attending the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
Gagnon began his law enforcement career with the Limestone Police Department in 1978 and joined the PIPD as a patrol officer a year later. He advanced to a sergeant’s position in 1990, became deputy chief of the department in 1993 and took over as chief in 1996. He has continually advanced his education and training throughout his career, graduating from the FBI National Academy in 2001 and amassing a lengthy list of training in courses related to law enforcement, domestic violence, case law and crime prevention. He also was named president of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association in 2003 and has served as a certified instructor for the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.
Gagnon said Wednesday that he is proud of the things that he has accomplished during his tenure as chief. Among them were his direct involvement with the design, building and completion of an upgraded public safety building that now houses both the police and fire departments and the “great strides” the department has made in domestic violence investigations. During his time at the department, he also has worked to secure Hunter, a bloodhound tracking dog, and Dozer, a drug-detecting black Lab. He also has worked to curb drug offenses in The County by having a PIPD officer serve with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.
“All of those have been joint efforts,” he said. “And they have been difficult at times. As times have changed, we’ve had to do more with less. Money has been tight, and we have had to do more work with fewer people. The population hasn’t really changed all that much, either. It has been a challenge, but I think we’ve served the community well over the years.”
Gagnon said that the biggest change he has seen in policing over the past 31 years is the amount of paperwork that the job requires.
“It really is a lot more demanding,” he said. “There are a great deal more forms to fill out now, as far as for court and for data collection. Data collection has gotten a lot more demanding, but a lot of that data collection is good, because it has helped us see figures related to drug and domestic violence crimes.”
Over the years, Gagnon has delighted in watching his officers excel and climb through the ranks, getting more adept at investigations and developing their skills. He also has forged a number of friendships with colleagues, city leaders and community members.
“I am going to miss the people most of all,” Gagnon said. “I’ve made a lot of friends in this area, but I plan on staying in touch with them and I know that I’ll continue to see many of my law enforcement colleagues in my new position.”
He said that he has worked hard over the years to secure as much grant money and other funding as he could for training personnel.
“I think that I would like to be remembered for that most of all,” he said. “I took advantage of all of the money that was available to us, and I think we have a department full of some of the best-trained officers in the state. And those officers have used that training to better the community and to make this city safe for the people who live here.”
City Manager Jim Bennett is expected to select an interim chief next week.