If you spend much time in Bangor and you have not met the Duck of Justice, well stand by, it’s probably just a matter of time.
There was photographic evidence that he made a brief appearance in front of author Stephen King’s house on Wednesday and as the sun went down he was spotted at the racetrack.
You can’t blame him for spreading his wings a bit. He’s been penned up in the Penobscot County’s District Attorney’s Office, well, for almost as long as D.A. Christopher Almy has — 1989, to be exact.
A gift from a game warden a couple of decades back, the stuffed, as in taxidermied, duck has sat mostly unnoticed on a shelf.
When the D.A’s office was being relocated, the duck’s fate appeared sealed, as in sealed inside a trash bag destined for the dumpster.
Until a Bangor cop with a rather sarcastic sense of humor and a passion for “picking” happened by and plucked him from the scrap heap.
“No one wanted him,” said Sgt. Tim Cotton. “I’m sort of a picker and I thought I could find a use for him.”
At the time, Cotton was in the detective division and he dubbed it the “Duck of Truth,” announcing that no one could lie in front of the duck, but later changed the orange-eyed beauty’s name to the Duck of Justice.
“It was more appropriate, I thought. It encompassed the entire justice system and I thought that was appropriate for this duck,” Cotton said.
But that was just the beginning. A few months ago, Cotton was promoted to the rank of sergeant and public information officer. Among his many duties was to update the department’s Facebook page.
Cotton decided the department needed a mascot, a social media mascot, and he knew exactly who would fit the bill.
The Duck of Justice and Cotton’s witty and informative posts about the daily goings-on at the department and around the city have got people flocking to the department’s Facebook page.
The page currently has 18,464 likes and has been nominated for the Social Media Breakfast Bangor Award.
I asked Cotton if he considered this public relations boon to be the greatest Web feat of his career?
“We’ve been using Facebook for a few years of course, I just asked if I could do it a bit differently, present us [the police department] a bit differently. I think in general people like to be entertained. I know I do, so if you can combine information with a bit of humor, then why not?” he said.
The duck helps.
Interviews with new police officers are posted on the Facebook page, along with a picture of them holding the duck.
“It’s funny. I think it’s funny. Sometimes the new officers are hesitant to open up about themselves, but then I make them sit there with the duck and it just sort of changes the atmosphere in the room,” he said.
But it’s not all about the duck.
Cotton has spiced up the Facebook page by convincing his officers to take occasional “cop car selfies” at various spots around the city at various times of day and night.
Earlier this week, he posted a reminder that part of Main Street would be closed for construction.
“Main Street to Cross Street to Hammond/State Street intersection is closed from now (6:45 p.m. June 30) until tomorrow morning. It’s not that far. You could throw a rock about that distance if you were working out like the doctor told you. If you forget the road is closed, the flagger with the road closed sign should be a good reminder.”
And then there was this one, with accompanying video of the officers releasing a turtle in a more appropriate place.
“Another wildlife save on the east side of Bangor on Sunday night. Turtle wranglers … Officer Aaron Brooker and Officer Kyle Pelkey proving yet again that in the midst of battling serious crime the boys in blue have a heart for the critters that roam the city. This snapping turtle had found some comfort in the Sandy children’s playground on Howard Street. The complainant called Northwoods law … But Northwoods law called … The Turtle men … Brooker and Pelkey felt that a feature such as this will bring the C Crew some much needed ‘likes.’ The video does not depict the fear that the east side beat cops saw in the hopeful children’s eyes … But it’s safe to say it’s safe to go back to the swing set on Howard.”
“I don’t take myself too seriously and I happen to think that police officers are a pretty fun bunch, but people often don’t see that because they may only interact with us when there is a problem. Facebook just gives us a chance to show the other things we do on a daily basis. We’ve been doing these things all along, but this allows us to share them,” Cotton said.
As for the Duck of Justice? It would appear there are T-shirts in the works and most excitingly an interview with a reporter from National Public Radio. Yup that’s right, NPR wants to talk to the duck and, of course, his wise quacker friend.
Renee Ordway can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.