PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — It has been a month since Chief Matt Irwin, who has more than 25 years of law enforcement experience, took the helm of the Presque Isle Police Department.
Irwin was previously a lieutenant with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Orlando, Fla., where he was involved in some high-profile and highly publicized cases, including the 2008 Caylee Marie Anthony homicide and the 2005 case of the “Disney World girl,” involving a young girl who appeared in a series of sexually explicit pictures taken at a Walt Disney World hotel and other locations.
Irwin took the job in Presque Isle from former Chief Naldo Gagnon, who ended his 31-year tenure with the department earlier this year to start a new career as chief deputy for the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.
Since February, Irwin has spent time getting acclimated to the area, its population and his officers, and sifting through the department’s budget and equipment needs. While he has found some areas where changes could occur, he also has discovered that he is now leading a police department that countless people have told him is “the best department to work with.”
“I have heard that a number of times since I got here,” Irwin said during an interview Friday afternoon. “And in getting to know them these past few weeks and seeing their professionalism and dedication to the job, I can see it is true.”
The new chief said that his wife, Nicole, has family in Dover-Foxcroft and that he has “known for the past 20 years” that he wanted to move to Maine after visiting several times.
“The timing of the scheduled interviews and everything worked out really well,” said Irwin. “We were scheduled to visit Maine in January, and that is when the city was holding interviews.”
He spent his first month in Presque Isle on the job riding along with officers, meeting community members and getting to know the issues the city is facing.
Remarking on the state’s prescription drug abuse problem, Irwin said the abuse of cocaine and heroin “ran rampant” in Orlando. Many crimes there also were linked to the abuse of alcohol.
“I know this department works very hard, along with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, to combat this problem,” he said. “But there is no easy fix. It is something that we will keep working on.”
Irwin also has been studying the department’s budget. He said Friday that he is concerned about the high rate of overtime in the department, caused mainly by a temporary staffing shortage. The PIPD is in the process of hiring additional employees.
“We do have a lot of overtime, and that may be necessary. I am not really sure at this point,” he said. “But what concerns me is that the employees have opportunities for good balance between work and home. We need to give them a home life to keep them fresh and prevent burnout. That is very important.”
The chief is in the process of buying a house, and expects his wife to move to the city in the coming weeks. Irwin is the father of two grown daughters and two daughters who are still in school.
“My wife and I are really happy and are looking forward to building a life here,” said Irwin. “It seems like a great place to live.”