Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Capt. Raymond Lafrance on his way out of the station Wednesday.

Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Capt. Raymond Lafrance

AUBURN — Androscoggin County Sheriff Eric Samson remembers those crazy days after 9/11.

There was an anthrax scare and all over the country — including here — and people were panicking over anything that looked like it might be powdered death.

It was a scary time. The world had changed.

“Capt. Lafrance was the one who came to us and said, ‘OK, guys. This is how we’re going to handle this kind of thing from now on,'” Samson said.

Lafrance was the transition guy — the officer who kept abreast with all the new laws, the new training techniques, the new policies. When things changed, Lafrance was there to make sure the department was ready for those changes.

“He’s been that one constant here,” Samson said, “no matter what was going on.”

At about 3 p.m. Wednesday, a police dispatcher signed Lafrance off from duty for the last time. After 40 years, the captain was leaving the job he had at one time considered a short-term stint.

“It was just going to be a temporary stop for me,” Lafrance said. “A stepping stone.”

That was 1977 when he started patrolling the streets and back roads of Androscoggin County. He was promoted to sergeant shortly after and then, in 1986, he was offered a job with the Freeport Police Department.

But Sheriff Ronald Gagnon didn’t want to lose what he saw as one of his best officers. He offered Lafrance a promotion to captain — but what was more, he was given the chance to help shape the future of the force.

“I was able to grow along with the department,” Lafrance said.

Lafrance took the captain’s gig and there he stayed for another 31 years, instituting things such as a department dive team and helping to shape policy as the world itself continued to go through transformations.

Over 40 years, Lafrance has seen a lot of those transformations.

“It’s changed so much,” Lafrance said. “The world has gotten a lot more violent. You never heard of police officers getting into gunfights back then. It was very rare. We’d occasionally get into fistfights, but that was about it.”

Back in those days, Lafrance said, most people liked and respected police officers. By and large, folks liked having them around; it made them feel safe. Even criminals who landed in jail would occasionally go out of their way to thank an officer for changing their lives.

That changed, Lafrance said, to the point where people feared the police, if they didn’t hate them outright.

“The respect level changed,” Lafrance said.

Not all of the changes were bad.

When Lafrance came aboard at the Sheriff’s Office, there were two policies: one pertained to weapons, the other pertained to driving.

“Now we have a book of 50 or 60 policies,” Lafrance said.

The training for officers, Lafrance said, has improved incredibly. They’re trained before they join the force and the training continues throughout their careers.

“You can never get enough of that,” Lafrance insisted.

Over four decades, Lafrance worked for half a dozen sheriffs, each with his own individual style of doing things. Lafrance adapted. He became one of those cops who has seen it all and done it all.

“He’s seen the good,” Chief Deputy William Gagne said, “and the bad … he’s definitely an asset to us and to the organization.”

Samson and Gagne said Lafrance helped them along when they were new on the job — ironic, since those men hold the top two positions at the department and Lafrance serves under them.

It’s also ironic considering Lafrance and Samson ran for the sheriff’s position in 2014. Samson took the office, Lafrance kept the captain’s position he had held for so long.

If there are bitter feelings there, they don’t show.

On Wednesday, the other officers took Lafrance out to lunch. They treated him like a celebrity for most of the day and let him decide how his last day on the job would go.

As they sat down for lunch, the officers began swapping stories from the old days, as cops tend to do when they gather in groups. Seated at the table was Sheriff’s Detective Thomas Slivinski, who has 43 years on the job, a good chunk of it with the department.

With that many years in, you’d think that Slivinski recalls more than anybody, but no. Lafrance still has that way of serving as the department’s institutional memory.

“He brought up all kinds of tales that I’d completely forgotten about,” Slivinski said.

Part of Lafrance’s popularity, the detective said, comes from the fact that other officers liked working with him or for him.

“He’s been great to work with,” Slivinski said. “He knows the job and he always supported his men.”

Lafrance will remain on reserve status, Samson said, so that he can still work community events and continue serving as the department’s firearms training instructor if he chooses to do so.

By the time 3 p.m. rolled around Wednesday, Lafrance still did not appear in any great hurry to leave.

“I’m just waiting for him to tell me he’s ready to go,” said Gagne, who would drive Lafrance home and bring the cruiser back to the station. “I’m hoping he’ll take time now to decompress, to relax, enjoy life and get his honey-do list done.”

Ah, yes. The honey-do list.

Lafrance said he is retiring at 62 in large part to spend more time with his grandson and more time at his camp. But there are also those chores to do.

“Ray’s plans for tomorrow,” Samson quipped, “start painting the house per orders of the real boss — his wife.”

Whatever he has lined up, Lafrance didn’t seem to have a lot of complaints on his way out the door for the last time.

“The county has treated me very well over the years,” he said. “It’s been a hell of a career.”


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