What’s Next For Bangor’s Most Prolific Police Detective As He Retires?
Could it really be true?
One of Bangor's most prolific police detectives will be turning in his badge next month. Lieutenant Tim Cotton has dropped hints, here and there, on the Bangor Maine Police Department Facebook Page. But in his most recent post, there was no question that he is, in fact, making plans to move on, as he wrote:
"I'm cleaning out my stuff. Someone new needs the office, and I don't want to be in it anymore; it's a symbiotic relationship."
So, we decided to reach out, and get the news directly from the horse's mouth. Always game to chat, he indulged us with an answer and some really amusing insight into his career.
Yes, he is retiring next month.
"Basically it was long about November of last year I decided it was time to go, and I could get out in July. So that was my goal."
How it all started...
Cotton didn't start out as a Bangor cop. He actually got his start in broadcasting, first at WABI back in 1983.
"One job I've truly missed was radio. I loved radio. I still love radio...I was in it in an era when it was just a ball."
He would go on to work at WZON from 1984 to 1987.
Then he took a job working the afternoon drive on WWMJ. After a "foot-in-mouth" moment with the station's then-owner, Helen Dudman, Cotton found himself in a bit of hot water.
"We did a public service announcement about someone shooting the insulator off certain Bangor Hydro poles. And they were trying to find the person. So all I did was I did the announcement straight and then I said, I think I was going into 'Sympathy For The Devil', I think I said 'My gosh, my father and I, he's a much better shot than I am. He got like seven last night.' Okay? So that's what I said...I didn't know she was on the board of the Hyrdo! Of course, everyone knew I wasn't shooting these! But I just thought it was funny, and it made me laugh so you do it, right? That was the way radio was back then. Didn't she snap! And so I got called to her office, and she had a talk with me and I told her that I thought we better part ways."
He went back one final time to work the "T.C. in the AM" morning show on WZON, while also working part-time for Hampden P.D. in 1988.
"When I went for my part-time job at Hampden there were 200 people that applied for it. 200 different people!"
His transition into Law Enforcement:
By 1989, Cotton was working full-time as a cop in Hampden.
And in 1997, he took a job with the Bangor Police Department. His ultimate goal was to become a Detective.
"That to me is the pinnacle of crime-solving. Now I kind of go back a step and say solving and getting people to confess to child abuse was much more pleasurable for me because I really felt like I was getting something done, but homicide is what I really wanted to do. Bangor did their own homicide, so I applied and came to Bangor in 1997."
He made detective in 2002 and worked that job until 2014 when he put in for Sargeant.
"They gave me a choice. There were 2 jobs opening for a Sargeant. There was an opening for midnights and there was an opening for Public Information Officer. I had done radio and radio news and I had written a little bit for newspaper stuff, so it was a natural fit. And that's how Facebook happened."
By "Facebook Happened", Cotton, or T.C. as his readers know him, is referring to the creation of one of Bangor's most iconic law-enforcement mascots: The Duck Of Justice.
"I had the 'Duck Of Justice' as a Detective. I had it in my cubicle and it was all beat up. And I used to call it the 'Duck of Truth' because I would tell people when they were talking to me, I'd say 'Hey look, you can't lie in front of the duck. You can't do it. It's illegal.' And they'd laugh and then they'd tell me something."
"I just took it to my office, and then we started sneaking the beak, in like a 'Kilroy Was Here' -esque kind of thing. We would sneak the beak and the head into some pictures, and that took off! People were like 'Hey, there's a duck in that picture!' And I wouldn't say anything, you know. And so I just kept sticking the duck in different places. If a new officer would interview, I'd have them hold the duck. Or the bill would be in the screen a little bit. And so people kept asking 'What's up with the duck? What's up with the duck?' That should have been on our t-shirts. So that's how it happened. I said 'Oh no, that's the Duck of Justice and it's a very big deal!' as a joke obviously."
Cotton then tasked the daughter of one of the other officers, who had a knack for photography, to take the "Duck of Justice" on a little tour of Bangor, and document it.
"I said 'Take the duck, go everywhere in Bangor, stick it in weird places and then take pictures. Go by Paul Bunyan, go by Stephen King's house, the Casino, one of the bridges, the Water Tower,' and Katrina, that was her name, she did it. And I started running those pictures of this duck...and then it took off! And that's what's amazing. When you hear people say something goes viral and you don't know why...I have no idea how this happened. It was the right thing at the right time. And then it became an icon."
T.C. says since the "Duck of Justice" has become a thing, thousands of people have ventured from near and far to come into the Bangor Police Department Lobby to visit the duck.
Just this morning he had had to run downstairs to introduce the Duck Of Justice to a gentleman from Maryland, a couple from New Jersey, and a woman from Kansas.
"Five thousand humans come to a police department to meet a dead duck. And to me, that is the epitome of success on Social Media."
What will happen to the Duck Of Justice when T.C. leaves?
"I actually signed it over to them. We actually had to do legal paperwork. The City had to get a lawyer to do the thing because The Duck is actually a registered trademark with us. It was my duck, and in my mind, it's still my duck, but it's their duck now and it's in the museum."
What does Cotton think of his legacy with the Bangor PD? And how could anyone ever hope to fill his shoes and top "The Duck"?
"The cool thing about my tenure was that it happened completely by mistake. Someone else could have the same success but just have a different twist on it...Listen, and this is not self-deprecation; I am a first-class mope, completely. I was a horrible student. I mean I barely got through high school because I was finding other things to do. My mind was fertile but my penmanship wasn't, so you know what? I am proof-positive that someone can be semi, marginally, or poorly successful even without being a stellar student. So someone else could do this."
The Impact Of Technology & Social Media On Police Work:
Cotton says despite what some might think, the goofy Facebook page, which has almost 330 thousand followers, is a powerful tool to help connect law enforcement with the public.
"Build a relationship, then the conversation can happen. That's how I look at each post. That's all it is. And I answer people. They write something and I read every comment. Every comment. Because it's the right thing to do. If you give someone a forum, you better pay attention to what they have to say."
Cotton says things have changed a lot in the over 3 decades he's spent as a cop. He says the technology, which was originally put in place with the intention of making it easier for authorities to do their job, has sometimes had the opposite effect.
The social climate has also changed things a bit.
"It was a lot easier before...things have happened in the last few years that have made police officers not really want to put themselves out there because sometimes they're personally attacked...they don't want to do that anymore...they don't want to put themselves out there, and I don't blame them. As a police officer in today's society, I 100% understand that. I do."
He says he will miss being able to connect with people, something that's become harder to do these days.
"I just think we need to get out more and just be with folks. And I don't think they have that ability. I miss the ability to do that in my early career. But as for law enforcement today and missing being a cop, I can't tell you that I will."
How does he feel about retiring after 30+ years on the job?
"I don't really feel anything about it. Kind of like hollow. I guess it will be interesting, I guess I want to see how I feel when I just don't come back for a couple of weeks. I don't know... I don't feel depressed or sad but yet there's a certain part of me that's been doing this for a long time and I think I liked it up to 26 years and I've been doing it for 34, so..."
He hopes to stay connected to the community he loves and hinted that we might not have seen the last of him on the Bangor Maine Police Facebook Page.
He's not going far...
It sounds like he'll have quite a bit to keep him busy outside of Social Media. He's got two books out now: "Detective in the Dooryard" and "Got Warrants". His third book is due out in November. It's called "Dawn in the Dooryard". And the final book of his contract, which he's working on now is a fiction book.
"I'm around. I'm a local guy and I'll always be a local guy. I spend most of my time in Washington County but I'm back this way a lot. So if someone sees me on the streets, don't be shy, man. Say hi, because I do like to meet folks. I really do. I'll be the person who looks poorly dressed and limping."
Cotton is set to finish up this chapter of his life next month, but as Clash co-founder Joe Strummer says "the future is unwritten." Looking forward to what you put on the page next, T.C.
Thanks for all the memories.