BELFAST, Maine — New Police Chief Gerry Lincoln has been with the Belfast Police Department since 2017 and before that spent nearly a decade working for the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office.
But his most formative years may have been the quarter century or so that he served in the U.S. Air Force. Lincoln, who has a calm demeanor — and still boasts his military haircut — flew KC-135 refueler planes out of Bangor, among other responsibilities. His time in the service spanned important, and often tense, chapters in the nation’s modern military history, including the end of the Cold War, Desert Storm, Desert Shield and the first years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Lincoln broke the sound barrier, flew fighter jets to the North Pole and logged a lot of time in “flying gas stations” that refueled other military planes in mid-air. His time in the military shaped him, and he believes that the lessons he learned there will serve him well while leading the city’s police department.
“I like to think I listen well, have a pretty calm demeanor, think things through and hopefully come up with the best solution,” said Lincoln, who lives in Dixmont with his wife. “I enjoy a challenge. If you have a plane full of passengers and have an engine fire, you don’t want to start panicking.”
That actually happened to him. But thanks to the Air Force’s focus on preparation, the plane landed safely, he said.
“We trained enough that we knew exactly what to do and how to handle it. I look at police work in a similar way,” he said. “With the right training, you can handle most situations.”
Lincoln also served a stint in military law enforcement and decided to return to the field after he retired from the Air Force in 2008. He was a school resource officer for the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office, and also a detective. When the opportunity arose to join the Belfast Police Department, he pursued it.
“I’d always had an affinity to be part of the community,” he said.
The chief is now at the helm of a department that’s experienced turnover and staff shortages. The former chief, Mike McFadden, retired in November after eight years in the position, and immediately took a job as the head of the city’s transfer station. Additionally, a few long-serving police officers have retired recently, while others have been out on medical or administrative leave.
But that personnel shortfall should end soon, the new chief said, adding that at full capacity, the city has 16 full-time police officers. Three newly hired officers are training at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. Once they join the force, the department will lack only a deputy chief.
“We’re a young department,” Lincoln said. “We’ve got some great officers here. They’re eager to learn.”
So many changes can be challenging, he acknowledged.
“Every department goes through this kind of cycle. Anytime you have some new faces, there’s going to be some growing pains,” he said. “But it’s a great department, working for a great city.”
He would like the department to continue to work on issues such as illegal drugs and mental health.
“Those are the things I’d like to see us make some progress on in the future,” he said. “More trainings, helping people get the services they need in those areas. There are times when a criminal summons isn’t the right answer. Sometimes we may not realize right away what the underlying issues might be.”