GRAY — Dan Down has retired after nearly four decades as a Cumberland County Sheriff’s Deputy.
Down, 60, officially retired in July after 36 years with the Sheriff’s Office. A Gray resident for about 22 years and Windham High School graduate, he played many roles in the office over the years, most recenloty serving as the resource deputy at Bonny Eagle High School.
He spoke with the Lakes Region Weekly about his time in local law enforcement and his plans for retirement. His retirement party will be held Friday, Aug. 18, at the Italian Heritage Center in Portland.
Q: What were your day-to-day responsibilities with the Sheriff’s Office?
A: Well, I’ve worked a lot of different positions. The last one was my second stint at Bonney Eagle High School as the school resource deputy.
I was a detective, I was a K9 handler with a bomb dog, and patrol deputy, dispatch and support staff … A couple added things that I’ve done on top while I was doing those same responsibilities was driver for the command van for what we call the emergency services unit. I also did the boat patrol, which we referred to as Marine One, out on Sebago Lake, that we do in conjunction with Raymond EMS.
Q: Where there any of those roles that you liked the best?
A: I certainly enjoyed working at Bonny Eagle High School both times. I did the first stint in the early to mid 90s, not knowing what the job entailed … My kids were young at the time, and being in law enforcement we work nights and weekends and holidays, (so) at least September through June, I was going to be around my kids.
Q: Is it safe to assume that you got to know the Lakes Region pretty well working in the Sheriff’s Office?
A: Correct, because rural patrol is so much different than urban patrol. When I first started, it wasn’t uncommon to go into a situation, likes domestics or a party, and you did it alone. And by the time you would resolve the issue, it was a 20-30 minute ride for your backup to get there … Now, we have enough people working per shift, we all just about arrive simultaneously, which is very nice.
Q: What’s been the greatest challenge associated with the job?
A: Just communicating with the general public that they’re our eyes and ears out there. That a lot of people assume that we know everything. And we depend on them to help us resolve a case.
Q: Did you see any evolution over time in terms of people’s perception of law enforcement?
A: Yeah, most recently the support that law enforcement receives now is just amazing. I don’t know if it’s because of social media – I assume that’s what it is – but when you look on Facebook and see that people (supporting law enforcement) far outweigh (the people who don’t), it’s kind of nice to know.
Q: Do you think that increased support has come with increased resources?
A: Oh yeah, we have expanded. Our first specialty was either the dive team or K9. They both happened at about the same time in the 80s. And from there, we have expanded.
Q: Do you see the increase in resources matching an increase in need? Do you think there’s more crime?
A: I don’t think there’s so much more crime as law enforcement in Maine has come such a long way. The technology of computers – like (in the past) if I needed to research a report, sometimes it would take a month. Now, as long as the person had been caught in the past and somebody did their job and did the data entry, retrieval is at your fingertips. The line of communication within law enforcement has gotten much better. The interaction between other agencies, backup and working with each other, has increased.
Q: Have you spent the entirety of your career in law enforcement?
A: No, I started in a fast food industry and then worked in Standish public safety as a dispatcher. And then I joined Cumberland County part time in 1981 and full time in 1983.
Q: How does retirement feel?
A: Fantastic. It’s one of two things people kept saying, ‘you’re going to be so bored, you’ll want to go out and find a new job, or you’re going to be so busy, you won’t know what to do with yourself.’ At this point, I’m at the ‘I don’t know how I fit in a 40-hour work week with overtime’ with all of the things I’m trying to get caught up on.
Q: What do those things include, that you’re getting caught up on?
A: Working on my house, enjoying a motorcycle and living on Little Sebago Lake, which I’ve done most of my life.
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
From left, Capt. Craig Smith, Sheriff Kevin Joyce, Sen. Cathy Breen, Deputy Tom Caron, Deputy Dan Down, Sen. Mark Dion, Capt. Don Goulet and Capt. Scott Stewart gathered in Augusta recently to recognize Down and Caron at their retirement from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.