BANGOR, Maine — As a new police officer in 2003, David Bushey spent his nights patrolling the streets of Bangor making sure people were not driving home drunk and checking the neighborhoods to prevent a possible burglary.
He wrote all his reports on paper rather than a computer, didn’t have a video camera in his cruiser and could not record a conversation with a suspect or a victim and had to use a handheld tape recorder when interviewing people rather than press a button on the microphone worn on a shoulder.
“I drove around a lot looking for anything that looked suspicious,” Bushey, who recently was appointed deputy chief of the Bangor Police Department, said Friday.
A lot has changed in his years on the force and how police officers approach the job.
“Now, we have an opiate epidemic and that’s led to more property crimes,” Bushey, 42, of Hermon said. “If someone’s not driving safely today, it may not be alcohol that’s causing the intoxication.”
Last month, Bushey took over the position as deputy chief held by Brad Johnston since July 2013. Johnston, who joined the department in 1997, left to join the private sector.
Bushey said he applied to be deputy chief because he wanted a new challenge and because he greatly admires the man he’d be working with most closely — Police Chief Mark Hathaway.
“David has proven himself as an effective and respected leader — most recently as the head of our criminal investigations unit,” Hathaway said. “He is committed to making certain we remain one of the best prepared, skilled and engaging police departments in our state.”
A native of Bucksport, Bushey earned a two-year degree in legal technology — the law enforcement degree offered at the time — from the University of Maine. After graduation, he joined the military.
“I was interested in being a cop since high school but didn’t really feel I had the maturity level to do the job, so I joined the U.S. Coast Guard,” he said. “It’s a good background for people who want to get into police work.”
The new deputy chief was 27 when he joined the Bangor force. He spent five years as a patrol officer working overnights. Bushey was then a detective for 4½ years before being promoted to sergeant. He went back to working nights again as supervisor for a year before switching to the day shift to work as a detective again. He was promoted to lieutenant and replaced Lt. Tim Reid as head of the Criminal Investigations Division when Reid retired last year.
As a detective, Bushey investigated several high profiled cases including the brutal slaying of 53-year-old Richard “Rick” Jeskey in June 2011 in the bathroom of the apartment he shared with his wife. Roxanne Jeskey, 53, is serving a 50-year sentence at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham for murder.
But Bushey said Friday that he honed his investigative skills on burglary cases.
“Nobody likes handling burglaries because they’re hard to solve unless you get a good tip or have a good suspect,” he said. “I tell all the young detectives that it’s a good introduction to being a detective because you have to canvas an area, you have talk to neighbors, you have to talk to possible suspects and you have talk to victims.
“You really get a feeling for victims by talking to them, spending time with them,” Bushey said. “People who have had their houses broken into feel violated. If you just a read a police report, you don’t get an understanding of what that feels like.”
While Bushey’s rise in the department might appear to be meteoric, he said that it is part of a generation change taking place in police department’s all over the state. In late, 2010 nearly a third of the 83 members of the Bangor police force were expected to be eligible for retirement in three years.
Last month, five of the 58 graduates from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro went on to work for the Bangor police. The only agency with more graduates was the Maine State Police with six new officers.
Bushey said Friday that Bangor still needs to hire six more officers to be at full strength. The deputy chief said he thought the force should reflect the community it protects and is looking for new officers “who have had some life experience.”
The biggest attitude change Bushy has seen in his career is toward substance abuse and addiction.
“Fifteen years ago, police departments weren’t asking if jail is the best place for people struggling with addiction,” he said. “If somebody violated the law, you made the arrest. Some officers with good people skills would take the extra time to see what see what was going on with a person but that was not the overall philosophy.”
The department this year implemented a pilot program to connect drug users who commit low-level, nonviolent crimes with service providers to help address the addiction that led to criminal behavior.
The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program includes a case manager who will work to address the individual’s critical needs first, which most often involves food and housing. Next steps could include addressing the addiction and/or education and job training.
“The initial feedback we’re getting from officers on the street is that it’s helping,” he said.