A Unity College professor who spent 34 years in law enforcement in Pennsylvania and Florida has been hired as the new chief of the Machias Police Department, a position in which he will be charged with rebuilding a police department that currently has only one full-time officer.
Todd Hand will be paid an annual salary of $53,000 and is expected to start by the end of the year, to give him time to finish teaching this semester before he starts full-time, according to Machias Town Manager Christine Therrien.
Hand will be in Machias on Friday, Oct. 25, to meet with local officials and the public. A meet-and-greet session will take place at Machias Savings Bank on Center Street from noon until 2 p.m., Therrien said.
Hand is taking a job last held by Grady Dwelley, who was fired in June for undisclosed reasons.
Hand moved to Maine in 2016 after working as a lieutenant with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He had taught at the Florida State Police Academy and, when he saw a job posting for a conservation law enforcement teaching position at Unity, he thought it would be a good way to combine his interests in teaching and police work.
What he didn’t know before he showed up for his job interview in Unity was how much he would like the state of Maine. He grew up in Pennsylvania — and took vacation each year from his work in Florida each year to fish and hunt in his home state — but had never been to Maine before.
What he found in Maine is “even more spectacular” than the natural landscape in Pennsylvania, he said. He has enjoyed fishing and hunting here, he said, but he also likes the “hard-working and friendly” people in Maine, and that it has a relatively low crime rate.
“These people are really pleasant to be around,” he said of his fellow Maine residents. “If I had known about this place, I would have come here a long time ago.”
While teaching at Unity, Hand said he ended up missing law enforcement more than he thought he would. When he saw the posting for the job in Machias and then interviewed for it, he felt like it would be a good fit.
He also said that the police department needs “revamping” and that he “likes challenges.” He said he will remain as an adjunct faculty member at Unity.
Therrien said the town’s Board of Select People was impressed with Hand’s experience and his accessible manner. He has worked for municipal, county and state law enforcement agencies, she said, and his teaching experience also will be helpful in revamping the department, which, in addition to its one full-time officer, has six reserve officers.
Under normal staffing conditions, the department has four full-time officers, including the chief, according to Therrien. She gave credit to Sgt. Wade Walker and to the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, which provided assistance over the summer, with keeping the department running since Dwelley’s departure.
Police departments throughout Maine have been having difficulty filling officer positions, she said, but town officials believe Hand’s qualifications and enthusiasm will help attract qualified applicants.
“He relates very well with people,” Therrien said. “He’s easy to speak with.”