FALMOUTH — Longtime Falmouth Police Chief Ed Tolan says he hasn’t regretted a single day during his 45 years in law enforcement, even if it was not the career he planned on.

“It’s been challenging and rewarding,” said Tolan, who has announced he will retire as of Dec, 14.

Tolan has been the chief in Falmouth for the past 23 years and came to town after serving as the chief in Gorham. He began his career as a patrol officer in Cape Elizabeth in 1973 after serving in the Army for three years.

He is well-known and respected in the Maine law enforcement community, and plans to become the new executive director of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association. Falmouth Town Manager Nathan Poore said this week that Tolan “leaves an outstanding legacy of highly skilled and professional law enforcement staff.”

Tolan’s original career plan was to become an English teacher, not a cop. But, after his first semester at the University of Maine he was placed on academic suspension due to poor grades. Without a college deferment, Tolan became eligible for the draft.

He remembers walking into the Army recruiter’s office and seeing a life-sized poster of a military police officer and saying, “I’ll try that.”

He became a military police officer in the Army and served both in Vietnam and later at the Pentagon before starting his police career as a civilian.

To this day Tolan is not sure what drew him to become an MP, but he did have a family legacy of public service.

He never knew his grandfather, who was a lieutenant in the Portland Police Department. His father, a captain with the Portland Fire Department, died in the line of duty when Tolan was 7.

It was more his mother’s dream that he become a teacher, Tolan said. After losing her husband, “my mother always said she didn’t want me to become a fireman because it was too dangerous.”

The town is launching a search for his replacement. As of 2016, Tolan’s salary was $96,137. His current salary was not available Wednesday.

While Tolan described Maine as “a historically safe state” when it comes to the overall crime rate and deadly force situations, he admitted there were many times when he was nervous.

“You never know what’s going to happen when you pull over a vehicle in the middle of the night,” he said.

And he said people in Falmouth would be shocked at the number of times police are called out to deal with a mental health crisis or a drug overdose or bad reaction to taking a chemical substance.

“The mental health system in this country is broken and police officers are on the front line,” Tolan said. “What police officers face today is nothing like what we dealt with in the 1970s,” even though that, too, was a time of great change and turmoil.

“We do have a very safe community in Falmouth and that’s a credit to the officers on the force and to the citizens, who are willing to be helpful,” he said. In fact, one of the things Tolan has most enjoyed about heading up the department has been “the cooperation of the citizens.”

That doesn’t mean officers in Falmouth or Maine are not in dangerous jobs.

“We train our officers well and preach to them to be constantly aware of their surroundings,” Tolan said. “Still it’s always difficult when we hear another police officer has been killed.”

He also said that while Falmouth is a safe community, “our calls for service continue to escalate and we need to grow the department to meet that demand.”

Tolan, who has three children and one grandson with another grandchild on the way, had initially thought he would be fully retired by mid-December, but beginning Jan. 1, 2019, he will become the new executive director of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association.

It’s a part-time job, which he’ll do mostly from home, so Tolan is looking forward to the opportunity to travel and spend more time with his family.

In fact, missing holidays, family get-togethers and his children’s school and athletic events were the only drawback to his career in law enforcement, Tolan said.

“I worked a lot of overtime, a lot of nights, weekends and holidays, especially early on in my career,” he said.

But, Tolan also said, “I’ve been so blessed with family support over the years. My wife, Barbara, has been so understanding. It’s made it a lot easier to have that full support.”

Born and brought up in Portland, Tolan attended Cheverus High School. Following his service in the Army, he earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and has since earned a master’s in criminal justice administration.

He also graduated from the executive leadership program at the FBI Academy, which he attended in 1993.

Kate Irish Collins can be contacted at 710-2336 or at:

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Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

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