HOULTON, Maine — Houlton Police Chief Butch Asselin, who has spent nearly four decades serving and protecting the public during a decorated law enforcement career, earlier this month received the chief of the year award from the Maine Chiefs of Police Association.
Asselin’s wife, Lauren, knew that he was going to receive the award, but the chief was surprised when it was presented to him in a ceremony in South Portland.
“I was at a complete loss for words,” he said recently. “I was very humbled to receive the award. This award meant so much to me professionally and personally. As a police chief, I can tell you that there is no greater honor than to be recognized by your peers for your dedication to law enforcement and to MCOPA.”
Asselin started his career in law enforcement in 1975 as a patrol officer with the Skowhegan Police Department, working his way up until he was promoted to chief in 1997. He joined the Maine Chiefs of Police Association that year. He also immediately become a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. As a member, he lobbied other police chiefs to join the organization and traveled to Washington on a number of occasions to address members of Maine’s congressional delegation to support afterschool programs, Head Start and prekindergarten programs. On behalf of law enforcement and Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, he also spoke in 2005 before a congressional subcommittee on bullying.
He became chief of the Houlton Police Department in 2007. Since taking that position, he has instituted a Citizens Police Academy program that allows local residents to get better insight into police work. Cadets hear presentations on the department’s budget, drug investigations, crime scene investigations, radar use, community policing programs, the K-9 program, use of force, domestic violence and more.
In 2011, a resident approached the department with concerns about an autistic relative. Research has revealed that people with autism and other developmental disabilities are seven times more likely to come into contact with law enforcement authorities. In response, the chief, his officers and the Aroostook Chiefs of Police Association sponsored an autism forum geared toward social workers, law enforcement personnel and educators. Asselin launched a successful public safety experiment in 2010 when the department blocked off a section of a heavily traveled area of town to traffic on Halloween. On that holiday, the neighborhood becomes congested with vehicles, adults, teenagers, small children and pets. Because children sometimes wear masks and don’t always carry flashlights or wear reflective clothing, the chief was concerned that an accident might mar the neighborhood’s strong safety record. He recruited volunteers from the Citizen’s Police Academies and some officers to watch over the area for a few hours until it was opened to traffic again. The department now does that every year.
Asselin also began holding a law enforcement memorial ceremony every May during National Police Week to honor fallen officers and remember their sacrifice.
Asselin was certified by the International Chiefs of Police Association as a mentor of new chiefs in 2009, serving as an advisor both nationally and within the state. He was the recipient of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association “President’s Award” in 2012 and 2006 and has won numerous other accolades.
Town Councilors lauded Asselin for the award during a meeting last week. Town Manager Gene Conlogue said that he was not at all surprised by the award, given the caliber of the chief’s character.
In a letter of support offered to the Maine Chiefs of Police Association with Asselin’s nomination, Kimberly Gore, Maine state director for Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, praised the chief for his support of the organization.
“Throughout his time with our organization, Chief Asselin has been an incredibly strong and powerful advocacy leader for researching proven public policies that help give children the right start in life, keep them safe, and hopefully keep them away from crime,” she wrote.
“Over the course of the past 14 years Chief Asselin has also often led our efforts to meet with Maine’s congressional delegation, helping us advocate for increased funding for high-quality early education and care programs, as well as programs specially addressing the compelling needs of at-risk children in poverty,” she continued. “Chief Asselin has also participated in press conferences sponsored by Fight Crime: Invest In Kids, attended the 2007 Governor’s Statewide Summit on Early Childhood representing law enforcement, and has raised his voice on the editorial pages across our state in support of Maine’s youngest citizens.”
She added that Asselin’s interest in children is “genuine, heartfelt and runs deep.”