Telling parents that their son had died. Handling a car crash that killed a child. Trying to talk a man out of killing himself and watching helplessly as he did it anyway.

And then there were the good days, like the one a couple of years ago when a man walked into the Lisbon Police Department with his young son and asked to see the chief.

“I had arrested him a couple of times, but he wanted to bring his son in to meet me and he wanted me to know that the way I’d dealt with him and the way I treated him and followed up with him after court and so forth changed his direction in life,” said Brooks, 62. “He wanted his son to meet the man who put him on the right path. I was like, ‘wow.'”

It’s been a job filled with ups and downs, but for the man who dedicated his law enforcement career — and almost his whole adult life — to Lisbon, it’s all been worth it.

“It was hard to leave,” said Brooks, who retired last month after 42 years on the Lisbon police force, 36 years of them as chief.

Brooks grew up as the son of a Navy man, moving often from town to town and school to school. As an adult, he wanted something different for his wife and kids. He wanted community.

He found it in Lisbon.

Brooks had gotten his associate degree in criminal justice/law enforcement from the University of Maine at Augusta — becoming the first in his father’s family to go to college — and was working part time for the Richmond Police Department when a full-time spot became available in Lisbon. He joined the town’s police force in 1974 at age 20.

Six years later, he would be named chief. At 26, he was the youngest chief in Maine at the time.

“That was not even on my radar,” Brooks said. “It was just the way it turned out.” 

Lisbon’s previous chief had taken a job in Massachusetts and the town manager thought young Brooks had the qualities and abilities he was looking for to lead the town’s eight-person department. After a few months as interim chief, Brooks was hired permanently.  

“I was excited,” he said. “Gung-ho, ready to go, let’s get it done.”

Under his leadership, the town got its first school resource officers and started the first Drug Abuse Resistance Education program in Androscoggin County. Over the years, Lisbon’s police department doubled from eight full-time officers to 16, before recent cuts dropped it down to 12.

“We were able to become more proactive instead of being 100 percent reactive,” Brooks said. 

Once known for being a “rough town” — a reputation exacerbated by a large night club, an active Main Street bar and visiting motorcycle clubs, Brooks said — Lisbon settled into a calmer bedroom community.

The Police Department was settled, too. It wasn’t uncommon for officers and support staff to stay with the Lisbon department — and Brooks — for decades.

Brooks’ department philosophy was simple: Don’t work for the accolades.

“I always tried to keep everything under the radar,” he said. “It was important for us to just get the job done that we had to do, keep the community safe and the people safe and solve the crimes.”

Brooks and his wife, Lynne, raised two children in Lisbon, making their family part of the community Brooks had sworn to protect. Their daughter is now a teacher in town. Their son became a police officer and works in Sanford.

The Brooks have three grandchildren.

This past spring, Brooks decided to retire. His first 30 or so years as chief were great, he said. The last few had been harder, with social media, politics and changes in government to contend with.

“Just a lot of changes going on and probably some of it I wasn’t ready to adapt to,” he said. “Looking forward to being a uniform out there until age 65 really wasn’t overly appealing, either. Sixty-two, I think, was long enough.”

It was a hard decision, but he realized it was the right one after responding to a call about a 62-year-old man who’d had no history of heart issue but had died of a heart attack.

“I can remember coming home and telling Lynne, ‘You know, you never know what tomorrow brings,'” he said. 

Brooks officially retired June 30. At the end of his shift, his son drove him home in a Lisbon police car as his officers gave them a police escort through town. At home, Brooks was met by a cadre of saluting officers — officers from Lisbon, officers he’d worked with, officers from other area departments there to show their respect.

Brooks’ wife, a human resources professional, also plans to retire later this year. After four decades of limited vacations, the two want to travel. 

“I’ve been telling everybody we’re going to go find Route 66,” Brooks said.

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