Deputy Chief Chris Young, left, receives the Rockland Police Employee/Officer of the Year award from police Chief Bruce Boucher in this 2012 file photo. Credit: Courtesy of Rockland Police Department

ROCKLAND, Maine — In his 13 years running the Rockland Police Department, it’s always been about the people for Chief Bruce Boucher — both the people he works with and the community he serves.

They’re the reason Boucher left the private sector 14 years ago to take the job as chief of a department that — when fully staffed — employs 17 officers and two civilians.

“A lot of the reason I wanted to come back to [law enforcement] was the people,” Boucher said. “You always miss the people. It’s just the people that are drawn to this profession. They’re mission-oriented. They’re results-oriented. They’re just can-do people.”

Now, with his retirement only two weeks away, Boucher said he’s prepared to miss the people he works with in law enforcement once again.

Boucher was hired as police chief in 2005, after longtime Rockland police Chief Al Ockenfels retired. Boucher joined the department after serving as the director of security at Bowdoin College for five years. Prior to working at Bowdoin, he was a member of the Brunswick Police Department for 23 years.

When Boucher came to the department, Rockland had recently shaken its reputation as a gritty fishing town with a crime problem and was beginning to morph into the cultural destination it is today.

His biggest focus when taking charge of the department was to stabilize and organize.

“The officers were getting the job done. They weren’t the problem,” Boucher said. “The foundation was there, it just needed attention.”

Deputy Chief Chris Young said Boucher’s management style quickly became a boon for the department. Boucher operated the department in a way that made everyone feel as if they were a valued part of a cohesive organization, Young said.

“I think the most significant thing that he brought was an attitude of, ‘This is not my department, this is everyone’s department. You guys own this just as much as I do,’” Young said. “Once we noticed that buy-in, everything around us changed”

Morale within the department has “dramatically changed” in the 13 years Boucher has been chief, according to Young, which is something he says undoubtedly trickles down into the services that officers provide to the city.

When discussing the department’s successes during the past decade, Boucher is quick to attribute progress to his “phenomenal staff,” whether it be working to secure about $50,000 annually in grant funding to bring technology and equipment upgrades, or managing to police Rockland last year when the department had five vacant positions.

“We were down five officers and we didn’t miss a beat,” Boucher said.

As chief, Boucher said he has also tried to incorporate a community-based approach to policing. This was especially the case when bath salts became prevalent in Rockland around 2011, creating community-wide problems.

The department enlisted the help of community partners, such as the Knox County Health Coalition, to widen understanding of the drug and address the impact it was having on the community.

Boucher said working closely with groups that have expertise, such as Maine Behavioral Healthcare, is the same way the department is trying to address opioid addiction.

“Community policing is not a spectator sport, you have to be involved in it and get the community involved,” Boucher said.

City officials are currently working to find a replacement for Boucher and have received two applications from within the police department, according to the Courier-Gazette.

Boucher suggests that whoever is chosen to succeed him make it a priority to listen ― not to just their officers, but to their community as well.

“Listen to what is going on in the community,” Boucher said. “And don’t rush to judgment.”

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