BRUNSWICK, Maine — The Brunswick Police Department’s detectives work from a room dedicated to former “hero cop” Kenneth “K.T.” Taylor, a longtime Brunswick detective who died decades ago but has since inspired many to join the force.
Current and retired Brunswick police officers gathered March 13 in the new police station to dedicate the Criminal Investigations Division in Taylor’s memory.
A plaque outside the division proclaims it “K.T.’s Room” and features a photo of Taylor along with the legislative sentiment remembering him “for his relentless determination and skill in police work, as well as his genuine concern for humankind.”
But it’s the photo of Taylor etched on the plaque that tells the true story of the detective remembered for tenacity and relentless inquisitiveness.
In the photo, Taylor is clad in a white-and-brown-checked sport coat reminiscent of the 1970s. With one elbow resting over the back of the chair, Taylor tells it like it is.
The photo was taken from a 1983 award-winning documentary, “Just Another Missing Kid,” which tells the story of a Canadian family’s frustrating search for their teenage son, Eric Wilson, who disappeared in 1978.
After months of searching stymied by various local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, Taylor and Detective Charles Stevens discovered a local resident driving Wilson’s white Volkswagen van, with Texas plates, on Maine Street in Brunswick.
“Brunswick police were mystified but determined to find the owners,” the documentary states.
Wearing the sport coat shown on the plaque, Taylor told how he, too, was frustrated with the response to the search.
“We called out through the Midwest, we tried to deal with Texas to find out where these plates came from,” Taylor says in the film. “We talked to the FBI … and we got the standard response: ‘We will look into it, and we’ll get back to you.’”
But Taylor was determined. Eventually, he discovered that the van had never been imported to the United States, but instead to Ottawa, Canada. With that connection made, the Wilson family flew to Brunswick and slowly unraveled the mystery surrounding the murder of their son. The murderers were eventually convicted of killing Wilson.
Taylor died Aug. 5, 1987, of a heart attack suffered while at work — “his second favorite place after home,” his sister, Taylor Cole, said Thursday.
The following day, Taylor was remembered in The Times Record in a front page article headlined “Hero detective dead at age 48.”
Taylor “was known throughout the state for his uncanny ability to solve seemingly unsolvable cases,” Times Record reporter Bernie Monegain wrote. Then-police chief Donald P. Girardin commented on Taylor’s “tenacious investigations, his interviewing skills and his analytical ability.”
In 1979, Taylor was cited for heroism after a shooting in Navy housing near Brunswick Naval Air Station when Taylor went into a building in which two youngsters had barricaded themselves, The Times Record reported, “endangering his own life.”
Cole said Thursday that her brother thought of the Brunswick Police Department as “a second family.”
“He enjoyed his job so much,” she said. “He was on his 20th year. He could have retired, but he delayed and delayed and delayed. He didn’t want to leave the police department.”
“He was exceedingly bright, and anything that puzzled him, he was going to get to the the bottom of it, if it was the last thing he did,” she said.
Detective Sgt. Martin Rinaldi said Wednesday that Taylor’s inquisitiveness and tenacity inspired many to follow in his path.
“Most of us came to the Brunswick Police Department because of a strong tradition of professionalism,” Rinaldi said. “We never knew K.T., but it’s because of people like him that we all want to be the best at what we do.”
“He’s been gone 27 years, and to hear them talking about him like that — that he was a mentor — he would be so surprised, and so pleased,” Cole said.