HOULTON, Maine — After 21 years, Detective Carolyn Crandall of the Houlton Police Department is hanging up her holster and putting her badge away.
Crandall’s last day at the office was Tuesday, March 29, and she is taking vacation time until her official retirement on April 12.
“It’s time for new eyes,” said the 63-year-old Crandall. “You reach a point. Like an officer explained to me, you are what you do. I grew up in an era where your job defined you. But, then when it gets to the point it doesn’t define you anymore, then it is time to move on.”
One of the last official functions Crandall attended was the D.A.R.E. dinner at Houlton Southside School.
“There was a little girl at the dinner who wants to be a detective when she grows up,” Crandall said. “The admiration I got looking into that little girl’s eyes, it put the crown on it. Everything came full circle for me.”
Crandall started out with wonder and awe in her own eyes as she looked to her mentor, Freddie.
“When that little girl looked at me, it was the same way I used to look at him,” she said. “It’s like what we do is worth what we do. We don’t always get a lot of thanks from the public, but with programs like D.A.R.E. and the Citizens Police Academy, they have changed a lot of what people think.”
Crandall wasn’t new to the law enforcement business because her father had been an officer, she grew up next door to state troopers, and she had married a state trooper.
She began her career in public safety as a dispatcher for the Pittsfield Police Department in 1977. She came to Houlton in 1984, working for the Maine Forest Service until 1990. In March 1990, she was hired as a dispatcher for the Houlton Police Department and then transferred to patrol in October 1995. She was promoted to detective in February 2008.
Since the beginning of Crandall’s career more than three decades ago, the way in which law enforcement approaches a case has changed.
“It is not by gut like Gibbs on ‘NCIS,’” Crandall said. “We are learning to analyze what we see and hear. Crimes against the elderly are coming to the forefront. And officers are getting more training on domestic assault cases to identify the prominent aggressor. It all goes back to the training and how we approach our cases now.”
Crandall added that officers also now focus on victims differently.
“You learn to listen,” she said. “You are listening to what a victim is saying [from what they heard to what they smelled] and not anticipating what is going to be said. You get to see what happened to a victim through his-her eyes.”
Like most officers, Crandall knows she is leaving with open cases.
“There is always unfinished business,” she said. “I have cases waiting for dispositions and analyses to come back. I won’t be able to finish them up.”
For Crandall, each case has been important.
“Some cases you work harder on than others,” she said. “You have to be flexible and open. But every case that a victim gets their day in court … it is a good day.”
Crandall will miss the camaraderie of her coworkers.
“We are family,” she said. “A lot of things we go through, we can’t discuss even with our families at home. They are there. They understand because they have walked in your shoes or you understand because you’ve walked in theirs. You get to a point where you know what another officer wants by their body movements, not necessarily by what is said. You develop very close relationships. That never goes away. Someone is always there for you. It is always someone you can count on.”
Being with the Houlton Police Department for 20-plus years, Crandall has made good friends.
“Even people I have covered complaints for,” she said. “I keep in touch with them and they know that they can call. All officers develop a type of relationship with the victims, and a lot of times, even with people we deal with on the other end.”
She has found treating people with respect earns respect.
“They will come back,” she said. “We have solved cases from people we have dealt with in other cases.”
A native of Presque Isle, Crandall has two daughters, Shelly and Christine, who reside locally. She has received recognition for her work with Special Olympics and the Maine Teacher’s Association for her fundraising activities.
“It’s going to be hard that first morning when I get up and I don’t have to go to work,” she said.
But she won’t be too distressed.
“Now maybe I can get to go to my grandchildren’s ballgames,” she said. “I have eight quilts to finish and I have a couple of sweaters started. For a while, I am probably not going to leave my apartment.”
But, Crandall, who will stay in Houlton, also is waiting for her new home to be renovated, so moving will keep her busy.
As she looks back over her career, Crandall is satisfied.
“It was a rewarding career,” she said. “It has it highs. It has it lows. But, more often than not, there is a good outcome. You get out of it what you put into it and I feel I did my best.”