Attorney General Mills – Maine Criminal Justice Academy graduation address
July 13, 2009
ATTORNEY GENERAL JANET T. MILLS MAINE CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACADEMY GRADUATION FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2009
Thank you for inviting me to speak to you on this important occasion in your lives.
Let me take you back for a minute to a time eighty years ago. When a man on a motorcycle patrolled the roads of rural Maine alone looking for clues to solve crimes. Many of those crimes had to do with bootleg booze. Hooch. White Lightning. Some involved safe cracking, robbery and homicide. Real time crimes.
Eddie Marks, a former Olympic-trial wrestler, State Police Detective Marks, had a unique—and very successful—way of solving crimes.
A rugged individualist, and one of the first band of four state police detectives sworn in by Gov. Brewster in 1925—the first time the ‘staties’ were issued guns—Marks had a nose for the truth. He had instincts and intuition. You know, good instincts are really just hunches on steroids.
He and fellow early trooper Leon Shepard knew their neighbors and were known in their communities; they were “networked,” as we would say today. Their reputations were solid, their ethics unimpeachable. With those attributes, and a touch of guts, they gained confidences, solved crimes and made their mark on Maine history.
Marks and Shepard—who later founded the first crime lab after a crippling accident took him off the road—they patrolled on Harley Davidsons, like the one on display in the lobby. Marks, by the way, got to personally escort Charles Lindberg on his motor cycle after Lindberg landed on the strip in Old Orchard Beach, before one of the largest gatherings in Maine history.
Det. Marks also had a 375-pound bear named “Minnie” riding in his sidecar. The bear didn’t need a weapon. It wasn’t “good cop, bad cop” with Eddie Marks, it was “good cop, bad bear.”
Eddie Marks didn’t have a radio. He didn’t have a Taser gun. He had a real one. But he never, in five decades of service in the state police fired his weapon at another human being.
Yet he solved thousands of crimes and made thousands of arrests. And, like most of Maine police officers today, he patrolled alone, but in an area 300 miles square.
I like to think Det. Marks lived by the old John Wayne motto: “Courage,” he said, “is being scared to death but saddling up anyway!”
There were no computers when Marks started, or even when he retired,--no computers and no computer crimes.
No digitized imagery, no Google, no GPS, no trac phones, no instant SBI checks or Triple III’s, no faxes, cell phones or Blackberries, no focus groups or biofeedback, no DNA to leave an indelible print at a scene—a microscopic confession of sorts. No digitized images from super modern photography, no infrared detectors, superglue or light enhancers. No multimillion dollar labs. No dashboard cameras, microcassettes or surveillance videos.
He solved crimes with common sense and a good eye.
Of course, there was also no Miranda, no exclusionary rule, no search warrant software. It’s hard to say whether Eddie would have been held back at all, whether his cases or his style would have been changed significantly by the requirements of today’s legal world. Except for a few abrupt seizures of some illegal stills, I like to think he followed many of the steps that would be required of anyone today anyway.
There were no detailed formal protocols back then either to replace the power of good sense.
And community policing was not a federal program with so many words and rules but simply a way of life, second nature, part of the job.
I am pleased that we are joined today with Eddie Marks’ daughter, Karen Marks Lemke, who has memorialized her father and his compatriots in two books about these “Downeast Detectives.”
Otis LaBree was another colorful predecessor whose legacy is memorable. A big red-headed, later white-haired, guy, fully bilingual, a Jack-of-All-Trades—photographer, polygrapher, self-taught handwriting examiner, finger printer, investigator, story teller, Otis was a witness with finesse, a detective who patrolled all over the County and rural Maine. Sometimes he would talk a person to death until the person cooperated. Then he would charm the jurors on the stand until they too were like putty in his hands.
He avoided arrests in all but the most violent crimes, because back then the arresting officer had to feed and house the prisoner until they got him to the jail many many miles away.
And while he was colorful, like Detectives Marks and Shepard before him, Otis LaBree valued his reputation in the community. He guarded his integrity and his honor like a hawk.
In more recent decades, Col. Alan Weeks was a mentor for many. A man who worked his way up through the ranks, who was a gentleman at all times, who held sway with the power of his deep voice, the authority of his quiet steady demeanor. He was always held in the highest regard by his troops. Today I think of Col. Alan Weeks.
Today I think too of Arthur Stilphen, recently deceased, a Rockland native, former prosecutor and the first civilian Commissioner of Public Safety.
I honor Sheriffs who have gone before—people like Francis Henderson, a good soul who was known to take inmates out for a spell of fishing on a slow day; and Ken French, who saved more lives with a clever smile and disarming manner than most SWAT teams do in a year.
And I honor a mentor who is here with us today—Anne Jordan, first woman Commissioner of Public Safety and a role model for men and women across the state. Thank you, Anne, for your service to our state.
Finally, I think of former road guys like Giles Landry—Gil, who was so proud when he was taken off the road and assigned to do detective work in my DA’s office, even for a short time--his first assignment to help investigate the shooting death of Lewiston Officer David Payne, an event that shocked the City and the broader law enforcement community. Gil was proud though to have a new suit, to be in plain clothes, feeling safe to be off the road, helping children, victims of domestic violence and abuse. Safe, that is, until he went out to do his last interview and was shot through the heart, killed instantly by the target of his investigation.
I will always remember Gil’s smiling face, standing streamside in a treasured color photo, holding a prize smallmouth bass.
Gil was a good cop. A budding detective. But also a good fisherman, a good friend, a good human being, a devoted father and family man. He knew how to leave his job at the office. His values unchanged, enhancing his work.
These predecessors in whose shoes you now follow—they knew that society expects a police officer to be friend, counselor, healer, sometime midwife, recovery expert, scientist, confidant, social worker, teacher, mental health expert, a judge of character, a carpenter of souls, an EMT, a life saver – someone who has to be everything to everybody.
Over the past eighteen weeks you have crammed in everything there is to know about traffic functions, patrol maneuvers, court procedures, criminal and constitutional law. You are now competent to respond to everything from barking dogs, shots fired, locked vehicles, burglaries, noise complaints, armed robberies, vandalism, drunk drivers, domestic violence, disorderly conduct and loose livestock.
In Sanford Phippen’s book of Downeast short stories, called The Police Know Everything, the author’s 75-year old aunt Bunny, the town’s oldest living policewoman, learns to turn gossip into crime-solving intelligence data. It is true, the police are expected to “know everything.”
Forty years ago young people often went into law enforcement directly out of high school or after serving in the Armed Forces. The town manager would hand them a gun and a badge, offering no training or guidance, simply saying, “Go enforce the law.”
These young people learned on the job. They learned the hard way. But they also learned from experienced officers from other communities who would mentor them.
Now you have the best of both worlds. You have mentors—your cadres, past and present. And you have some of the finest training this country has to offer.
For the past thirty-nine years this institution has offered professional training for law enforcement officers at all levels. We are so lucky to have this Academy. And we are lucky to have you completing its rigid curriculum this day. You are now skilled in science, in law and in the physics of police work.
But your ethics is the most important thing you will ever possess. Your word is your bond, whether in a court of law, in a barracks or in an unruly crowd.
The day any police officer shades the truth is the day that officer shames the profession. Remember the old saw, if you always tell the truth, you’ll never have to worry about remembering what you said. Marks, Shepard, LaBree, Weeks, Stilphen and Gil Landry knew this.
Remember too that the science of investigation has changed, and so very much for the better; but the science of the human mind and heart has not.
No one high tech tool can solve a case or save a life alone. A skilled operator and a probing mind are indispensable.
The spoken word still works wonders. The silent smile still bridges a gap with the toughest of tightlipped suspects. A good confession still seals a case like nothing else. And the trust that comes from good communications will give you an open door to a world of invaluable information.
Use your eyes and your ears, use language, instincts, intellect and experience. And you will be safe, successful and strong.
You too will be a mentor. Someone whom all members of the community will look up to. Someone whom the youth will emulate, someone whom your peers will trust, whom the elders will look to for safety. Show them always a positive attitude, offer them a smile.
So, congratulations to all of you of the 16th BLETP for completing a grueling course of physical and academic ability in order to become a certified law enforcement officer in the State of Maine.
As you go forth to protect, to detect, to defend and to deter, please lead with discipline. Remember your eyes, your ears, your mind and your heart—your greatest tools.
May the spirit of Eddie Marks, Leon Shepard, Otis LaBree and Alan Weeks ride on your shoulder, a big friendly bear always in your sidecar. May confidence, courage and compassion be your passengers.
And may you never forget to go fishing.
Congratulations to you and your devoted families. Thank you.