PIPD starts new year with many changes

Kathy McCarty, Special to The County
18 years ago

   PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – The Presque Isle Police Department started the new year with a few ‘new’ faces in various positions with the department, following the hiring of two officers in the last year, the departure of three others, the graduation of three officers and the promotion of two more.
     “It’s been busy around here since Det. Sgt. William Campbell left early last year to take a position with the MDEA (Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. We promoted Det. Wayne Selfridge to detective sergeant  to fill that position, then promoted William Scull, who’d been an officer, to the position of detective,” said Chief Naldo Gagnon.
Gagnon said transition has gone smoothly, in spite of the changeovers.
“Although Bill (Campbell) left the department, he continues to work closely with us. He knows the area and knows how we work, so it’s almost like he’s still a part of the department. It’s always a benefit when one of our own advances to another department but continues to work closely with us on related investigations,” said Gagnon.
Selfridge serves as supervisor in the Criminal Investigation Division and takes particular interest in cases involving missing individuals.
“I handle calls regarding missing individuals, abuse cases and other matters. I’m continuing to investigate the disappearance of Tela Hart, who was last seen Oct. 9, 2005. Those are the hardest cases, when loved ones just want an answer about what happened and I don’t have one for them,” said Selfridge.
Scull, a certified drug recognition expert, works with Selfridge and the department to address the community’s drug issues. He’s also been involved in the recent bomb scares and hopes the public will help solve such cases.
“Drugs have become one of the leading causes of break-ins and burglaries, as people in search of drugs do whatever it takes to obtain such. I’ve also been investigating the high school bomb scares. Anyone with information on such illegal activities should contact the PIPD. Their tips can make all the difference in solving these cases,” said Williams.
Three officers – Dennis Quint, Larry Fickett and Rob Thibeault – attended the Police Academy in 2006, graduating with flying colors. Thibeault even received the recognition of being named the head of his class.
“I just studied and listened in class. I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary,” said a humble Thibeault.
“It was quite a learning experience. We met officers from many different departments from throughout the state,” said Fickett.
Quint was equally as interested in the training and the new friends he made.
“It was a great opportunity to learn new techniques and meet new people. It’s an experience I’ll never forget,” said Quint.
With the departure of Officers Mitchell Wheeler and John York – the latter retired to teach in Mars Hill —- the PIPD has been actively recruiting to fill the positions. In June, Officer Dana Cote was added to the roster. And as of Jan. 1, 2007, Officer Shawn Newell joined the PIPD family.
Prior to joining the PIPD, Cote had served with the Ashland Police Department.
“I was with Ashland for a year and a half. I attended UMPI, graduating with a BA in criminal justice and a minor in sociology,” said Cote, a native of Manchester, Conn., who joined the department in June of 2006.
Cote, who is tazer-trained, is scheduled to attend the Police Academy in Augusta later this summer.
The newest member of the force – Newell – comes with 12 years’ prior experience.
“As of Jan. 5, I have 12 years of experience in law enforcement,” said Newell. “I attended college before spending six years on the road with the Baileyville Police Department. The last six years I served as the school resource officer.”
In that position, Newell was responsible for doing all the safety and evacuation plans for the district.
“I dealt with the legal issues on campus and implementing prevention programs,” said Newell, who indicated Tim McCue (safety coordinator for SAD 1 and former DARE officer with the PIPD) was his DARE mentor. “I may get a chance to work with Tim at some point.”
Newell also has experience as an evidence technician and crime scene investigator.
“I’m interested in helping Sgt. Mark Barnes in that area,” said Newell.
The seasoned officer is looking forward to working with the department in various aspects, including public relations.
“I’ve handle PR in my previous position and would like to continue to do so here. I love it up here – the people, the communities. I had an opportunity to work in southern Maine but chose here because of the people and the lifestyle,” said Newell.
The department has also upgraded and changed its Web site to www.pipd.us.
“We’ve created a more user-friendly site, including links to e-mails for each staff member. We’d love to hear feedback on it,” said Sgt. Eric Erickson, who’s been working on the update.
Unfortunately, with the update, each cruiser must also undergo a change, with old decals removed and new ones put on advertising the site.
“That will be my job – taking off the decals and putting on the new ones,” said Erickson. “But the decals serve as good advertisements for the Web site and provides visibility for the department’s online capabilities.”
The department will continue to undergo changes in coming weeks, as yet another officer moves on to join another department.
“Officer Stacey Mahan has taken the position as chief in Limestone. He’ll be getting done around the end of the month. We’ve already begun searching for his replacement,” said Gagnon. “While we wish we could keep folks with us, change can be a good thing too – both for them and for us. New hires bring new ways of thinking, enhancing what we do. We wish those who’ve chosen to move on the best of luck and welcome those who’ve chosen to join us.”