Farmington Police Chief Jack Peck Jr. became the first chief in Franklin County on Sept. 5 to be sworn as president of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association.  Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

FARMINGTON — Some of the top policing concerns in Maine and nationwide are the opioid crisis, dealing with mental illness, hiring and retaining good police officers, and the safety and security of older people and children, Police Chief Jack Peck Jr. said.

Peck, a graduate of Mt. Blue High School, was sworn in Sept. 5 at Sugarloaf conference center as president of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association. He is the first chief from Franklin County to serve in the position.

The association has more than 350 members, including active and retired. Peck, who has held other positions in the association, will serve one year as president and then one year as past president.

Peck, 55, has been a police officer for 35 years. He has been on the Farmington Police Department for 30 years.

Retired Cape Elizabeth Police Chief Edward J. Tolman, the executive director of the chiefs association, said Thursday that when he was a captain, he was one of two people in 1984 who made the decision to hire Peck as a patrolman.

Peck has worked for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy and correctional officer. In 1989, he was hired by the Farmington Police Department and worked his way through the ranks. He became chief in 2010.

He also served as a special agent with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and attended the FBI National Academy. He graduated from the FBI academy in the 216th session and earned a Yellow Brick Road brick. It sits on a shelf behind his desk, a reminder of the grueling 6-mile run that was part of the academy training.

“The biggest thing during my tenure is the wellness of our police community,” Peck said. “We see, hear and smell things that most people never experience, except maybe our combat veterans.”

He believes in promoting emotional and physical wellness in officers to help keep them safe.

Over the past three years more officers have died by suicide than have been killed in the line of duty, he said.

“We, the Maine chiefs, partnered with U.S. Attorney Halsey Frank” of the district of Maine. “We brought in motivational, renowned speaker Dr. Christopher Wilson who presented on how to build resilience to trauma. We brought him to Sugarloaf from Portland, Oregon, to talk about what we see and do every day and how it affects the brain,” Peck said.

The International Journal of Emergency Mental Health reported in 2013 that police can expect to live 20 years less than their civilian counterparts, Peck said.

A couple of critical incidents within the past 1½ years have affected the law enforcement community. One is the shooting death of Somerset County Cpl. Eugene Cole and the other is the death of Maine State Police Detective Benjamin Campbell, killed by a logging truck wheel.

“As an association we want officers to be aware and recognize the effects that these tragic incidents have on the human body and we need to build resilience,” Peck said. “We are dealing with a different society. There are mass shootings almost weekly and one of the priorities of ours is to make sure officers go home to their families every night.”

“Our communities are very supportive of police throughout the state as compared to other communities,” he said. “It is almost every day that someone stops me and says, ‘Thank you for your service.'”

Police deal with the opioid crisis daily and administer the antidote naloxone to individuals who overdose.

“We’ve had parents come in and thank us” for saving their children’s lives, Peck said.

Police do their part to enforce the laws, he said. Another part of that is there needs to be treatment and aggressive follow-up to the treatment, he said. Follow-up is important because some people serve a sentence and then go back into the same environment, he said.

There is also the need to keep the older generations and the children safe and secure. It is important that they get to know police officers.

The biggest thing in regard to children is having a resource officer in the schools, he said.

“I think it is a crucial part of any community, Peck said. “As far as police are concerned, I think that it is great if we can engage our youth any way that we can. We go in to read to the kids in school. We have youth leadership groups. We have Camp Post Card, a Citizen Police Academy, and a law enforcement program at the high school.”

Another big concern is hiring and retaining police officers in Maine and nationwide.

“We have an extremely hard time recruiting, especially in rural Maine,” Peck said.

He has struggled for several years to keep positions filled. He has two openings. In addition, he has one officer attending the Maine Criminal Justice Academy and one taking the department’s field training program before going to the 18-week police academy.

“I am honored to be selected to serve the state of Maine as president of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association,” Peck said.


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