RENEE ORDWAY

Is anyone still surprised when a ‘respected’ member of the community is accused of child sex abuse?

Posted March 21, 2014, at 1:27 p.m.
Andrew E. Demers
Cumberland County Sheriff's Office
Andrew E. Demers

The greatest surprise to me when I read the sexual abuse allegations lodged against former Maine State Police Chief Andrew Demers Jr. was how many people were shocked by the charge.

Is it the number of medals that were pinned to his uniform during his 26 years with the state police that make it difficult to fathom that he might molest a child?

Or that he was named Trooper of the Year twice, was once the most decorated officer in state police history and in 2003 was named a “Legendary Trooper”?

Or that he served six years as colonel and chief of the state police?

Or that he was a Marine?

Or is it that he is 73 years old, a husband, a father and a grandfather?

Not one of those things preclude someone from sexually molesting a child.

Not one of those things make him less likely to commit that crime than the creepy guy on the street corner.

Neither badges, clerical collars, business suits nor whistles worn around a coach’s neck are any indication of whether or not someone is capable of the sexual molestation of a child.

Please tell me we all have learned that and it is not necessary to list specific examples.

I understand the difficulty in coming to terms that someone you cared for, trusted and perhaps loved is an abuser of children.

My family had to walk that painful path after the suicide of Robert Carlson, the former pastor at East Orrington Church and chaplain to many law enforcement agencies.

It was horrifying to face the truth about him.

Once I did there was no going back.

Throughout the years there have been so many others, respected and beloved teachers, coaches, priests, police officers and politicians.

No profession is immune.

I found it curious how many were shocked at the allegations against Demers. Not because he ever showed any signs of such depravity or that he lived his life in anything but an outwardly respectable manner, but because I’m never surprised at that revelation anymore — against anyone.

During a casual conversation on a social media site some found that pronouncement sad.

Of course it is sad. It’s a terrible thing.

Perhaps the revelation of sexual molestation has to involve someone you love, care for and trust unequivocally before you reach my type of benumbed response to the latest “shocking” story.

I covered Demers often during his six years as state police chief. He was a Marine through and through. He had a formal and proud way about him.

He was not a fan of the media, felt that most things that went on in his department were none of our business and wasn’t hesitant to let us know that.

I covered the controversial shooting by police of Katherine Hegarty in her remote cabin in Jackman in 1992. A trooper and two Somerset County Sheriff deputies stormed the cabin after only being on the scene for about 10 minutes.

It caused enormous outcry around the state and allegations of misuse of power and misuse of deadly force.

Demers never faltered in his defense of his trooper and chose not to discipline him.

The shooting garnered attention across the country and prompted the Maine Legislature to pass laws upgrading police training and setting minimum standards for the use of deadly force.

We didn’t always see eye to eye, but that had nothing to do with my lack of astonishment at this week’s headlines involving him and a 4-year-old child.

It was just another headline telling of another once-respected man accused of one of the most heinous crimes imaginable. This time the man once wore a uniform, a gun and a bunch of medals on his chest.

When, I wonder, will you stop being surprised?

You can reach Renee Ordway at reneeordway@gmail.com.

 

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