Remarks by Attorney General Janet T. Mills at the Maine Chiefs of Police Awards Banquet

February 8, 2013

A few years ago we were “Finding Nemo.” Now, Nemo has found us. And I regret that this storm, which will undoubtedly strain your departments and your overtime budgets, has also prevented me from attending this year’s Awards Banquet.

I am very excited to be Maine’s Attorney General once again and to rejoin the ranks of the law enforcement community.

Despite tough economic times, we will work more aggressively together to address problems of domestic violence, firearms misuse, drug abuse, and mental health issues within our towns.

As always, the light – and the heat – is always on law enforcement, whether you do something right or whether you take some action that causes controversy. Every step you take is analyzed, scrutinized, and predictably criticized by somebody.

And when the headlines fade, the cameras are turned off and the news mikes departed, you and your team remain on the job, the pace of the calls, crashes, and crimes undiminished.

For every act of violence in which a police officer uses deadly force, for instance, there are, I suspect, dozens of times when such force might have been used but was not. These incidents, often requiring many hours of patient and persistent SWAT-type involvement, are just as important to track as are the ones that get headlines because a civilian is injured or killed. The public should know the whole story of what you do, not just part of the story.

When I spoke to you a few years ago, I noted that you had your hands full with budgets, personnel issues, reports to elected officials, and the like. Nothing has changed.

You are still expected to be many things to many people:
*A friend, a counselor, a comforter of children, a consoler of the stricken, a finder of lost souls, a saver of lives;
*A truant officer, a mechanic, an expert in the law;
*A peacemaker, a protector, and a punisher;
*A queller of disturbances, an enforcer, a force for calm, an athlete, sometimes a punching bag;
*A team player, and a lonely beat walker in the middle of the night;
*A humanitarian, a hero, a scribe;
*A person with 20-20 vision and perfect hindsight at the same time;
*A traffic director, a controller of dogs, a race car driver;
*A shoulder to cry on, a strong arm, and a good sport.

You must respond to every emergency, every call, with haste and equanimity; with a placid but probing demeanor; understanding yet questioning; remembering and writing every detail; acting always on intelligence, intuition, good training and raw nerves, reserving all emotion.

All this and more: A law enforcement officer is caring and professional, a perfectionist, cautious and concerned. While no one is all of these, you and your officers try, every day.

And to you I tip my hat once again. And to the spouses and family members, I offer them my deepest gratitude for patiently sharing their loved ones with us in this most demanding of all professions.

Thank you. And, despite finding Nemo, I hope you’ve had an excellent conference and a very enjoyable dinner.