PARIS — With the recent addition of a new detective sergeant, the Paris Police Department is back up to full strength for the first time in almost a year.
Jeffrey Lange, 42, the department's newest hire, has extensive experience as a police investigator, including a 12-year stint as a detective in Columbus, Ohio, and multiple tours as a police contractor in Afghanistan and Iraq.
His decision to take a position with a small department in Maine comes from what he called “his calling” to do police work, Lange said in an interview in his new office at the Paris Police Department Friday.
A New Jersey native, Lange worked as a firefighter, prison guard and police officer in a small New Jersey force before he was hired by the Columbus Police Department in 1996.
During his time in Columbus, Lange worked as a lead detective in the department's special victims unit, investigating sexual assaults and kidnappings, as well as organized crime and gang activity.
In 2008, he moved back to the East Coast and took a job as a contractor working with the U.S. Department of Defense. For the next four years, Lange worked in Afghanistan, Iraq and on military bases in the U.S., conducting criminal investigations and training U.S. and Afghan forces.
Between 2009 and 2010 Lange headed up the prosecution task force in eastern Baghdad, Iraq. His last contract, which ended earlier this year, was training Afghan special forces on counter-improvised explosive device techniques and helping the country's police and courts prosecute criminal cases.
Despite a radically different culture, language and environment, Lange said the mechanics of police work in Afghanistan are similar to those in the U.S., with one important difference:
“Corruption is a way of life there,” he said of a county that regularly ranks as one of the most corrupt in the world.
As an example, Lange recalled his involvement in the investigation of a top Afghan border patrol commander. As soon as the evidence against the man was revealed, Afghan authorities took him out of his post and made him a judge in the capital city, Kabul.
“That’s the way the game is played out there,” Lange said. As maddening as those conditions seem, getting frustrated wasn't helpful, Lange explained, especially taking into account that for many Afghans, a certain level of corruption in tolerable, and even acceptable.
His last deployment in Afghanistan was enough, Lange said. He was tired of traveling overseas and wanted to get back to regular law enforcement. He jumped at a posting for a detective with the Paris Police Department and was hired last week.
Lange said he hopes to add his experience to the department, which has been through a tumultuous year of personnel and leadership turnover.
Whatever the department's history, Lange said it has skilled, promising officers, and he hopes to help the department grow into its potential to be a professional, proactive force the town can be proud of.
“The appointment of Detective Sgt. Lange brings the Paris Police Department back to full staff," Chief Michael Madden said in a statement.
"This will allow the new management team to focus on the needs and issues surrounding the department and the community. I look forward to having Detective Sgt. Lange's experience and expertise to continue moving the Paris Police Department in a positive direction."