Recruited by a police chief during college, Walpole resident Rand Maker has spent almost 30 years in Maine law enforcement.
A Machias native and graduate of UMaine Presque Isle, Maker remembered when Mike Coty, at the time Baileyville Chief of Police, encouraged him to consider a career in law enforcement. Coty is now director of judicial marshals for the state and Maker has been with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office since 1995.
“He spoke with me about it and I took the two-week, 100-hour course,” Maker remembered. That career decision led to five years with the Calais Police Department and more than two decades with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.
“Calais was a small department, and we covered everything from parking tickets to an armed kidnapping case. It made me a better law enforcement officer.” The variety in law enforcement work always appealed to him but so does helping and working with people.
Maker served as a deputy for five years, a detective for five years and lieutenant before becoming chief deputy in 2017. Asked how his profession has changed since he started, Maker pointed to an overall decrease in crime but an increase in injuries to members of law enforcement.
“It’s a perfect storm,” he answered. “A lack of maturity, substance abuse and mental health issues are combined and law enforcement is left to deal with it. We are the referees in disputes because no one wants to compromise.”
He spoke about the need for more consistent services for mental health issues outside the criminal justice system. If community support can be kept in place, it will work, he said.
Maker gave an example of a county resident who is self-medicating with alcohol and not receiving needed treatment. Law enforcement has to maintain public safety while letting the man remain out of jail. “For us, it’s a struggle between our duty to protect the public and our duty to protect the individual.”
There are bright spots on the criminal justice horizon. Maker pointed to the county’s diversion program in which some of those waiting for court action, usually a trial or sentencing, are placed under intense supervision out of jail, currently about twice as many as are in jail.
They are carefully chosen and come under the watching eyes of substance abuse counselors, judges, the district attorney, law enforcement, mental health providers, and probation and parole officers. “Public safety is the first goal,” Maker said. “It has to be good for the public, the defendant and for our people.”
The success of the program is seen in the lowered recidivism rate for Lincoln County offenders which is less than 20 percent as opposed to the U.S. rate of 68 to 83 percent.
Maker said having all of the diversion providers co-located in the court and sheriff‘s office complex in Wiscasset makes a significant difference to the program’s success.
Married, with a son who attends Norwich University in Vermont, Maker is like his colleagues at the sheriff’s office who are very connected with their communities. He has coached the junior varsity basketball team at Lincoln Academy for 20 years and is in a leadership role at Camp Postcard. He also works with the ambulance service in Damariscotta one night each week.
As he described it, his duties as chief deputy are to steer the boat in the direction the sheriff would like, working with the patrol division and special services division lieutenants.
“It’s the greatest show on earth and we have front row seats,” he added, smiling.