PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A Presque Isle property manager who has worked to rid the apartment complexes he oversees of crime is now serving as the voluntary chaplain for the local police department.
Mark Neddeau, who grew up in the area and recently was accepted into the International Conference of Police Chaplains, became an ordained minister in 1997. He said recently his idea to become a chaplain for the Presque Isle Police Department originated after he moved back to the area in January 2012 to manage two 80-unit rental properties that had a reputation for numerous police visits. Neddeau evicted a number of tenants, instituted a neighborhood watch program and cleaned up the properties.
“It was through that interaction that I approached them with my idea, and they were very receptive right away,” he said. “I think that sometimes they are underappreciated. They put their lives on the line every day for people in our community. And they suffer a great deal of stress on the job, and in their personal lives and in other areas, and I hope to help with that.”
Police chaplains perform a number of functions for the departments they serve, including counseling law enforcement officers, making death notifications, providing assistance to victims, working with transients and the homeless, and teaching officers stress management, according to the International Conference of Police Chaplains website.
Through his chaplain work, Neddeau has conducted ride alongs with the police, visited the station and the officers and instituted other initiatives. He said he was happy about his recent acceptance into the ICPC, which seeks to maintain professionalism in law enforcement chaplaincy and allows him to gain training and education to use in the field.
He recently met with Caribou Police Chief Michael Gahagan to become educated on law enforcement leadership strategies and said that he and Presque Isle Police Chief Matt Irwin want to work together to raise support and awareness for local police departments.
Irwin said Thursday evening that he has been impressed with what Neddeau has brought to the table so far.
“I knew him a year before I even knew that he was a chaplain,” he said. “I got to know him first through the properties he manages, and he did an excellent job ridding them of crime and drugs and just general disorder.”
When Neddeau approached the chief about being a volunteer chaplain, Irwin said that he was totally in favor of it.
“Sometimes I think that people see a police officer and think that they are always the ‘tough guy,’” the chief said, “And I think that the officers try hard to live up to that. But that is hard to live up to all the time.”
Irwin said his officers have dealt with some especially hard cases since he was hired in February 2011.
There was the June 2012 crash that killed a 4-year-old girl on U.S. Route 1 in Presque Isle, and the February crash that killed Roman Yoder, 22, of Fort Fairfield and seriously injured David Hayes, 63, also of Fort Fairfield.
“It has been nice to have Mark around to help on cases like that, and when cases like that come up in the future,” said Irwin. “We do have employee assistance programs in place already, but sometimes officers are reluctant to use them for various reasons. Now they can meet with him on a much less formal basis.”
Neddeau said he and Irwin intend to develop a chaplaincy program for the department that caters to officers as well as their families. Neddeau also is hoping to do more community outreach, including arranging neighborhood watch programs in high-risk areas and counseling prisoners.
“I am very excited for the future and to work more and more with the officers,” Neddeau said, “It is a great organization.”