December 29, 2012

After 46 years, Franklin County Sheriff Dennis Pike hits the road

'It was what it was, but I can't complain. I've been blessed. I did what I set out to do,' outgoing sheriff says

By Kaitlin Schroeder kschroeder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

FARMINGTON -- On Friday Sheriff Dennis Pike turned over the keys to the sheriff department car, and by the new year he will have cleaned out the few belongings he's kept at the office.

click image to enlarge

Franklin County Sheriff Dennis C. Pike at his home in Farmington, which also serveed as an annex for the veteran law enforcement officer.

Staff photo by David Leaming

Pike, 74, is retiring after 46 years of wearing a police badge, just shy of the 50-year landmark he was hoping to reach. He lost his bid for re-election to a fourth term in Franklin County in November to Scott Nichols.

"It was what it was, but I can't complain. I've been blessed. I did what I set out to do," he said.

Pike said he can't remember ever wanting to be anything but a police officer or live anywhere but Maine.

The only time Pike lived outside of Farmington was shortly after high school when he was in the U.S. Army Reserve for six years, four of which were active duty at Fort Dix in New Jersey, where he was martial arts instructor for the new recruits. At 5 feet, 10 inches and 150 pounds, he said he was light enough to have the advantage during hand-to-hand combat.

Those skills served him in his law enforcement career on more than one occasion, he said.

After six years in the Reserve, he was invited to re-enlist but he wanted to return to Farmington.

"My goal from day one was to get my military obligation done and return to Maine," he said.

After returning, and the University of Maine at Farmington for about two years -- it was Farmington State Teachers College at the time -- Town Manager Harold Bean offered him a job as a Farmington police officer.

"So I went and notified the school and never looked back," he said.

Early years

Shortly after he joined the police, Pike also became a part time sheriff's deputy. He said in his early years there were many nights he was the only Franklin County deputy or officer on duty from Farmington to Coburn Gore, 73 miles up Route 27 on the Canadian border.

Back then, police did not carry radios and it wasn't until decades after he started that police began to call for backup as a rule in tight situations. Even if he'd had a radio, Pike points out, there was no one to call.

Farmington, he said, was the only local police station for years in the county with officers on duty 24 hours a day.

"If you got into a situation, you knew you were going to have to be the one to resolve it without outside help," he said. "You could say it enhanced one's communication skills significantly."

Thought he doesn't smoke, Pike said he has cigarettes to thank as a negotiating tool during those years.

"I could say, 'Do you want to sit down and have a cigarette, or do you want to wrestle around for a while?' Ninety percent of the time they chose the cigarette. It was an invaluable tool, though that probably gives nightmares to health care providers," he said.

In another situation, Pike said he drove by Cumberland Farms in Farmington late one night, before the store was open 24 hours, and saw burglars inside the dark store.

Thinking he couldn't catch them by himself if they ran, he pulled his car up to the store and held the door shut with his bumper until he could find backup to help arrest them.

"When you're alone, you really had to think these things through for ideas," he said.

One of his favorite arrests came years later after he investigated a break-in at the American Legion post.

For years he had joked that he wished burglars would leave their business card behind. While investigating at the American Legion he found the burglar's bank deposit slip left behind, leading him right to the burglar.

(Continued on page 2)

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