DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Doug Roberts, who had his first police badge pinned on him at the age of 18, has retired after a long law enforcement career, most of which involved working nights as a dispatcher at the Piscataquis County Jail.
“Forty years of this is enough,” Roberts, 58, said as he worked his last 5:45 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift Friday at the county jail. While he is too young to enjoy Social Security, Roberts said, he is looking to pursue a different venture. “It’s time for a change.”
Feted by the sheriff’s department Friday at a breakfast at the Bear’s Den Restaurant, Roberts was presented a plaque for his service to the county.
Roberts started his career as a Dover-Foxcroft constable and for years worked part-time for the department while he also worked as an investigator for former Great Northern Paper Co. When the company restructured in 1986, his job was eliminated and Roberts went to work for the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department, becoming full-time in 1994. Back then, he said, his job included stints in dispatch, patrol and corrections.
‘’When I started at the sheriff’s office, there was one dispatcher and he was the jailer and he was the cook,” Roberts said of those early multitasking days. He recalled a good many mornings when he made breakfast for the inmates.
When the new jail opened in 1987, Roberts no longer had to cook but he had additional dispatch duties from the implementation of 911 and emergency medical dispatch. He also was relocated from a small room off a hallway into a fully enclosed glassed room, called the “bubble,” that has views of the waiting room, inmate quarters and booking room.
Sitting before six computer screens Friday that monitored the security inside and outside of the jail, radio logs for county and local police, wardens, Operation Game Thief, Mayo hospital, Milo and Greenville Ambulance services, courthouse alarms, and private alarms to businesses and homes, along with teletypes, 911 screens and maps, Roberts said he has enjoyed his career.
“There’s nights when you come in and it’s total chaos,” Roberts said. “You come in and do what you’ve got to do to get through and there are nights that are long and boring and very little is going on.”
One of the worst nights of his career was when he sent a part-time officer to the Lily Bay Road to respond to a vehicle off the road.
“That was the night that Grayln Smith almost got shot,” he recalled. “He was outside his vehicle and what I heard were shots fired. You sit in here and you’re helpless.”
Seconds later, a tow-truck operator who had been called arrived and helped the uninjured Smith disarm the intoxicated motorist.
“You just never know,” Roberts said of the calls. Over the years, bar fight calls have been replaced by reports of burglaries or drug activity, he said. Domestic fights continue to rank high among the complaints, and Roberts has seen an increase in calls about suicide.
Having been raised in Dover-Foxcroft and knowing the county and many of its residents has worked well in directing the patrol officers to respond to various incidents, Roberts said. “I don’t know everybody but I might know somebody who knows somebody and I’m not afraid to pick up the phone and call them. You need to know where you’re sending your people,” he said.
What also has helped were the 10 years of part-time service he provided to Mayo Regional Hospital’s ambulance service and his 25 years as a volunteer firefighter.
Roberts said he and his wife, Cheryl, have always been involved in some type of community service. Cheryl Roberts, who worked for Mayo Regional Hospital for 33 years, most recently as director of ancillary services, also retired Friday.
The pair plan to spend some time at their camp in Aroostook County before opening another chapter in their lives.