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Washburn police chief steps down after 25 years in law enforcement

Kathy McCarty | Presque Isle Star-Herald
Kathy McCarty | Presque Isle Star-Herald
Doug Conroy, chief of the Washburn Police Department, spent his last day on the job, Nov. 30, 2012, responding to well-wishers who called and stopped by to visit with him and thank him for his many years of service.
By Kathy McCarty, Presque Isle Star-Herald

WASHBURN, Maine — A career that began at the Caribou Police Department in November 1987 came to an end last month at the Washburn Police Department, as Chief Doug Conroy completed his final day as a public servant, after more than 25 years in law enforcement.

Conroy said he got his start in Caribou, at the urging of friends.

“I knew officers with the department. They encouraged me to apply,” said Conroy.

He became chief in Washburn much the same way.

“Rick Corey was chair of the council. We were both members of a local Harley [motorcycle] group and rode bikes together. He told me of the opening and encouraged me to apply,” said Conroy.

Conroy has served as Washburn’s chief for 12 years, beginning in October 2000.

Born in Caribou, Conroy said he enjoyed serving both communities, although some of the things he has had to deal with have been difficult.

“I was the first child abuse investigator for the CPD. The state police had handled investigations up to that point but were finding they needed help, so they began looking to police departments for help,” said Conroy. “Cases were often difficult but I was able to get confessions on several occasions.”

Conroy recalled District Attorney Neale Adams questioning his success at getting confessions, asking Conroy how he did it.

“It was a matter of explaining to the individual how it would benefit them in the long run to tell the truth now, rather than wait. Not only would it clear their conscience but it would make it easier on them in court and easier on the victims,” said Conroy.

Conroy said he preferred to use a more easygoing method of extracting information over the hard-nosed approach to law enforcement.

“I wasn’t out to be their friend, I just found there wasn’t a need to be aggressive. I got what I was looking for without threats or intimidation,” said Conroy.

Over the years, he has tried to teach that approach to other officers.

“Whether you’re dealing with a routine traffic stop or a criminal investigation, you need to be willing to listen,” said Conroy. “As for the smaller stuff, like minor traffic violations, as chief I’ve taught my officers to work with people. Most don’t intend to do something wrong. A warning usually works. If it becomes a repeated problem, then you can consider taking a more serious approach — ticket them.”

Over the years, Conroy’s worked with many other agencies, combining efforts to bring cases to a close.

“Most recently, I worked with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. There’s a lot of crossover and we depend on each other to solve cases and bring things to court,” said Conroy.

“I’ve worked with Doug for more than 25 years. He is, and always has been, a gentleman, a consummate professional and a genuinely caring person,” said Darrell Crandall, MDEA division commander.

Conroy, whose last day was Nov. 30, spent his last week leaving things in order for his replacement, Roy Guidrey, who will serve as interim chief until Washburn’s annual town meeting next spring.

“Roy knows the town. I think he’ll do a great job,” said Conroy.

A steady stream of well-wishers, both via phone calls and in person, let Conroy know how much he meant to them and the community.

“There’s a story for every house [in Washburn]. Over 25 years, I’ve come to know the people of Washburn and Caribou and have been there for them during both ups and downs,” said Conroy, pausing as he reflected on his many years of service.

“I saw a moose on my way to work this morning and it made me think of all the times I’ve seen wildlife or responded to accidents involving moose or deer. It hit me today that that was the last time I’ll be driving to work at the Washburn Police Department,” said Conroy.

Washburn Town Council Chair Keith Brown and Councilor Mike Umphrey also stopped in on the chief’s last day to congratulate Conroy on his retirement and wish him well.

Umphrey recalled an incident Conroy responded to some years ago involving escaped pigs.

“One of our bus drivers came back from a run and told us about Doug rounding up pigs. I sent him a card that year thanking him for helping my friends and signed it Miss Piggy,” said Umphrey.

Conroy said he was glad to finally find out who was responsible for that note.

Brown said Conroy will be missed for all he did for the community.

When asked what his plans for retirement were, Conroy said he had no long-range plans but was focused on making it through the holidays.

“My immediate plans include flying our daughter home for Christmas. My wife Norma and I agreed instead of exchanging gifts, we’d spend the money to bring our daughter Jess home,” said Conroy.

He said his wife has supported him through the years, never complaining about the hours he kept.

“No matter what I had to do or the extra hours I had to put in, Norma’s been there for me. She’s never complained and has supported me through it all,” said Conroy, becoming choked with emotion. “I’m the luckiest guy I know.”

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