Mark Hathaway doesn’t get rattled easily.
He’s sort of the “everything’s going to be OK” kind of guy.
The “stay calm and carry on” sort.
I learned this about him about a dozen years ago as I sat beside him in a police vehicle in the middle of the night just down the road a piece from where an armed woman with a mental health history was holding a crisis worker hostage.
Mark was Bangor Police Department’s hostage negotiator.
I was seated beside him because the woman had said she would release the young woman if she could speak to a news reporter about concerns she had with a local mental health facility.
The department’s Special Response Team all geared up in their armor and long guns had surrounded her home.
Just listen to what she wants to tell you. It will be fine. She’s not going to hurt anyone, Mark assured me as I concentrated on not peeing my pants all over his front seat.
We sat there together for a couple of hours. She’d call, she’d talk, she’d hang up and eventually she let the hostage go with a fistful of documents I assured her I would read.
“See,” Mark said as I staggered numbly back toward my car as the sun was coming up. “Everything’s OK.”
There were a lot of people to be concerned about in Bangor on Thursday.
The gentleman who was so tragically killed in the parade when he was thrown from his tractor and run over by the firetruck behind him; the driver of that firetruck and his two daughters who were riding beside him; all of the dozens of people, young and old, who witnessed that horrible sight; and the first responders who rushed to clear and control the scene and render aid.
I also thought of Mark Hathaway, Bangor’s new police chief who just took over the position about two months ago.
At 8:30 a.m. Thursday the department was notified that someone was firing shots from a downtown apartment building, not far from where parade goers would soon be gathering with lawn chairs and coolers in hand.
The department’s SRT unit responded, downtown buildings were evacuated and the man continued to fire shots out of the window.
In the midst of that, conversations were being held about whether to cancel the parade as thousands of spectators were arriving and units were lining up in Brewer.
The decision was made to reroute the parade away from the scene, tear gas was ultimately used to force the gunman from the building and Mark was shaking hands with the SRT members when he got the call of the tragedy unfolding along the parade route.
That’s an out-of-the-ordinary, high-stress day for any police officer, let alone a new police chief.
And of course there was the mishap a couple of weeks ago when he accidentally shot himself in the hand with his new service weapon, facing perhaps his first but surely not his last public scrutiny.
I called him Friday morning, half wondering whether he was second guessing his decision to accept his new job.
“No, of course not,” he said amiably. “Everything is OK.
“It was a highly unusual and terribly tragic day for many people, but the people in this department and the people in the fire department did an incredible job under very tough circumstances,” he said.
“Every single person in this department stepped up and went above and beyond to do what needed to be done yesterday. They did their own jobs and the jobs of others. Every off-duty person we called came in without a second of hesitation and Brewer sent officers over to help us out. I’m telling you, the people of this city should know that when something happens, police and fire personnel will pull together,” he said.
Hathaway noted that while he was back at a safe distance he marveled at the methodical manner in which the SRT members did their jobs.
“There is a reason we train as much as we do. Those guys know what they are doing and do it with incredible skill,” he said.
At the accident scene the department’s mental health liaison knew immediately that crisis and grief counseling was going to be needed not only for those involved in the accident, but for the witnesses as well.
“David Tremble knew exactly who to call to line up the professionals he knew we were going to need to help people get through this tragedy,” Hathaway said.
“The successes that we have in this department are because of the good people that work here and I mean that. It may have seemed like I had my hands full and perhaps I did in a way, but everyone here knows how to do their job and they are good at that job and they are willing to step up. I can count on that. I know I can count on that. They don’t need me to tell them how to do their jobs. They know and they do exactly what needs to be done. That makes my job easy,” he said.
A certain level of calm when everything around you is anything but and a confidence in the department’s employees to do their job … sounds like the makings of a fine police chief for the city of Bangor.