Rod Tirrell is Calais Police Department’s Newest Officer

Rod Tirrell takes the oath of service to Calais Police Department. (Facebook photo)

By Lura Jackson

The field of law enforcement may not be at the top of many people’s list for a second career, but to Rod Tirrell of Calais, it should be. At the age of 46, the former Prime Care operator became Calais Police Department’s [CPD] newest full-time officer in late August.

Joining the police department was a decision that felt natural to Tirrell after the closure of Prime Care’s Calais branch in April. “I always wanted to serve in the military and serve my country, but I never did,” Tirrell said. “As I got older, I realized that I was past the age when you can enlist.” When Prime Care closed, Tirrell shares that he “saw the opportunity to serve my community instead of my country.”  

Tirrell began his path in law enforcement by completing approximately forty hours of online preparatory work. From there, he spent two weeks at the academy and then moved into field training with an FTO while working from CPD. To complete his FTO requirements, he has to have an arrest and an OUI stop, both of which Chief David Randall is expecting that Tirrell will have completed by Christmas. Since starting, Tirrell has successfully investigated a robbery, securing two confessions while working alongside his FTO (currently Matt Vinson).

One of the biggest surprises for Tirrell has been the reality of the drug situation in the community. “Now that I’m here, in law enforcement, it’s very clear and present. Whereas before, I kind of joked, ‘Heroin, Calais? Come on.’ But now I’ve seen heroin firsthand.” Seeing the situation more clearly has further demonstrated to Tirrell that he has made the right choice in selecting his second career. “At the end of my career, I want to be able to look back and know that I did something about the drug problem here.”

Along with the drug problem, Tirrell has been additionally amazed at how much CPD has done to combat it. “When I look at the history of it, they’ve done so much,” he said. “Even though there are probably still drugs present, they are far less present than they used to be.” Tirrell credits Chief Randall for his tight-ship approach to managing his department. “He truly cares about keeping this community safe, and, obviously, drugs are a big problem.”

As part of the steps in becoming an officer, Tirrell has had to complete a psych test and a polygraph test, both of which he feels are potential barriers that aspiring officers may perceive. “What I take aware from the polygraph is that they just want to see if you’re an honest person,” Tirrell said. “It’s not about – I mean obviously if you’ve committed murder or rape or something like that, you’re not going to be welcomed in. But the stuff you did as a teenager that a lot of people worry about... they just want to see if you have integrity and that when the chips are down you’ll tell the truth.”

Tirrell recounts from his experience with the three-hour polygraph test that the person administering the test would ask him the same questions over and over to see if he would give different responses. “He had me honestly thinking to myself, ‘Okay, I gotta find another job,’” he laughed. “[Chief Randall] explained to me that it was standard protocol and that they try to make you crack... I wish I knew that going in.”

The psych test, on the other hand, was a “breeze,” Tirrell said. While it also lasted for a few hours, it was more like a regular conversation. “It started with a series of online tests, but we spent more time just sitting and talking.”

A final requirement that Tirrell will have to fulfill is a four-month intensive training at the Maine Criminal Justice Training Academy. Tirrell says he expects “long, long days, military-style,” but he thinks he will be able to handle it.

The academy can only have 66 cadets at a time, and Tirrell is number 127. Not all cadets will be admitted as they must first pass a physical fitness test thirty days before classes start. He is prepared for the January class in the event that they’ll have a place for him, but he will definitely get into the August class next year if they don’t.

Asked if he is nervous about the academy, Tirrell replied frankly, “I’ve been nervous about all of this all along. To be honest, I think anyone that says any different is just lying. I mean, even some of the silly stuff we’ve done, pulling cars over, there’s nerves in that. You get butterflies.”

Tirrell shared that his particular path of working with CPD has prepared him well for the academy, however. “In hindsight of this whole process, the way I did it would be the best way for most people to do it... the way Calais has had me do it, in all honesty, is probably more expensive, but it has been super beneficial. I have learned so much in just a few months and when I go to the academy I will have such a leg up over most people.”

Having gone through the initial processes of becoming an officer, Tirrell wants the community to know that he is available to answer questions to those who are themselves considering entering the field. “I knew going into this, I was clueless,” Tirrell said. “The police department was very helpful, but it would have been more helpful to speak to someone who either is going through or has recently gone through the process.”

It is particularly important for the area to gain new police officers rather than to continue shuffling the existing ones between facilities, especially in light of the nationwide shortage of officers. “Washington County seems to recycle police officers from one department to another leaving some department short-staffed,” Chief Randall said. Hiring Tirrell was a direct attempt to bring in new manpower that would serve the area well, Randall said. “I made the decision to try and hire someone new to law enforcement and I feel it was a good choice.”

 

If you have questions for Tirrell about entering the field of law enforcement, you can contact him on Facebook by messaging his profile, Rod Tirrell, Sr.