Belfast chief to take retiree’s post at sheriff’s office

Posted Sept. 07, 2011, at 5:15 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — Two Waldo County law enforcement agencies will have a major shakeup soon, as longtime veteran Bob Keating retires from service at the sheriff’s office and Belfast police Chief Jeff Trafton moves to take his place.

For Keating, this ends a 42-year local career in law enforcement, including a stint as Belfast’s longest-serving police chief and most recently as the chief deputy of the sheriff’s office. He will leave on Dec. 16.

“It’s time,” the 64-year-old Keating said Wednesday. “I want to slow down a little bit, enjoy time with the wife, the children and grandchildren.”

He said he is glad that Trafton will be stepping into his position, which is appointed by Sheriff Scott Story. The chief deputy manages the day-to-day operation of the county’s patrol division and oversees the detective’s division, among other responsibilities.

“I think he’ll make a solid chief deputy,” Keating said.

Trafton announced his resignation Tuesday, after serving for 6½ years at the helm of the city’s police department. He said in an interview Wednesday that Belfast has been a great place to work and that he is glad the city has adopted a school resource officer position and also worked to reach out to elderly citizens through Waldo County Triad during his tenure.

“It’s been one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever had,” he said.

Before Trafton was hired to be the city’s police chief, he worked for 22 years with Maine State Police, most recently as the troop commander for the midcoast region.

Trafton said that two of the more dramatic cases that occurred in the city during his years there are the kidnapping and attempted murder of 72-year-old Patricia Moss in 2009 and the killing of right-wing Nazi extremist James Cummings by his wife, Amber, in 2008.

“It’s a busy little city for the size,” Trafton said.

He said he appreciates the support he’s received from several different city councils as well as the solid police work done by his officers over the years. Trafton also noted the evolutions in technology in the last few years that are helping to change how police work is done. For example, he said, officers turned in their pagers last week, which have been made obsolete by the proliferation of cell phones. Another technological improvement has been the video cameras installed in cruisers, which he expects will eventually become outmoded by individual cameras that are worn by officers.

“That’s the future,” he said.

He said he has always wanted to be a member of the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office, which he described as a “great organization,” and is looking forward to the opportunity to work with the corrections side of law enforcement.

“It’ll be a new challenge. I like new challenges, and moving forward,” Trafton said.

His resignation was greeted with regret by city officials, including City Manager Joe Slocum, who said Wednesday that the city will form a search committee for the next chief.

“As far as I’m concerned, Belfast could not have had a better chief,” he said. “Every person in that department has been a tribute to the community in the last four years.”

Slocum said officials plan to ask Story if Trafton can serve on the committee looking for his replacement.

“In Jeff Trafton, we have a very good blueprint for a chief,” he said.

When the chief leaves in mid-October, it is likely that the city will appoint an interim chief, who may or may not be from the police department. Slocum said that it’s possible the city will open a nationwide search for a permanent chief.

“This is perhaps one of the most crucial positions in any community,” the manager said. “A safe community, where there’s good investigation and good diplomacy — that’s a real attraction.”

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