Retired Deputy Chief Marla St. Pierre, right, with Chief Robbie Moulton, center, and Deputy Chief David Grover during the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Scarborough Public Safety Building on Nov. 14, 2018. Contributed

SCARBOROUGH — For Marla St. Pierre, working in law enforcement as a woman came with many challenges.

But after 42 years with the Scarborough Police Department, she said the memories she made and the people she met along the way made the career worthwhile. 

“When I first started, women in police work were rarities. It wasn’t easy, sometimes, for citizens to accept the fact there was a woman in uniform,” St. Pierre said last week. “There were some officers that didn’t want me here because they didn’t believe women had a place in police work. But I didn’t leave because I love the work. My blood runs blue. I couldn’t picture doing anything else.” 

St. Pierre retired from the department on July 3, and has been replaced as deputy chief by former Sgt. John O’Malley.

She said her love for the community and its people kept her going, even through difficult times. 

After graduating from high school, St. Pierre moved from Aroostook County to attend the University of Southern Maine and study criminal justice. She began working as a reserve officer at the Scarborough Police Department in 1977.  

In 1980, she became a patrol officer; in 1988, a sergeant. In 1995, St. Pierre moved up the ranks to lieutenant, and in 1999, she was promoted to deputy chief, a position she held for 20 years. She served alongside another deputy chief, David Grover, doing various tasks to keep the department running smoothly. 

While St. Pierre oversaw dispatch and patrol, Grover worked in the detective bureau doing administrative work.

 

St. Pierre said as a woman, she often felt she had to work harder than her male counterparts in order to prove herself and show she belonged. If anything, she said, there was more scrutiny because she was female, but she never let that stop her from moving up within the department. 

“When the guys realized I’d get involved in a fight and take my punches, too, I’d win them over,” she said. “For a long period of time, I was the only women in a classroom of men when there was training. … When I became sergeant and lieutenant, I was one of very few women of rank in the state of Maine.” 

Earlier in her career, she recalled, traffic stops where people would ask where her back-up was or wonder why she was out on duty by herself. Comments like these, she said, didn’t feel malicious, but did highlight how unaccustomed people were to seeing a woman on the police force. 

“It was also during a time where people were questioning how women could juggle having a career and raising children,” St. Pierre said. “Women just get it done.” 

Moulton started as a reserve officer in 1977, the same year as St. Pierre, and got to know St. Pierre both as a co-worker and a close friend. He said she was a pioneer in Maine, breaking barriers by climbing the ranks and being in places women hadn’t been before.  

“She continually set new goals for young female officers to strive for, and she has shown great compassion and empathy for the community,” Moulton said. “I’ve had her by my side for a long time, that stretches across all the ranks of the department. Not having her here will be tough. I’ve come to lean on her a lot.”

Moulton said while he and St. Pierre have different personalities, they worked well together because they complemented each other’s skill set. 

St. Pierre said Moulton has always been her biggest inspiration, because he has a vision for Scarborough and regularly comes up with innovative ways to serve the community.  

“If I had a different chief, I don’t know if I would have been as successful or have stayed as long as I did,” she said. “We worked well together. He’s not big on details, but I am. I’m not a vision person, but he is. It was a good match.” 

As she moves forward into retirement, St. Pierre said she has only one piece of advice for her fellow officers working hard to keep the community safe. 

“When you think about quitting, remind yourself why you started,” she said. “It can be hard, but every career has its ups and downs. When you’re in those challenging moments, remember why you chose this career.” 


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