Marc Hagan, at left, and Bill Collins are the newest chief and lieutenant, respectively, at the Topsham Police Department. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

TOPSHAM — Lt. Bill Collins, who’s been de facto police chief since Chris Lewis’ departure in July, was excited to hear of former colleague Marc Hagan’s interest in leading the department.

“We’re … cut from the same cloth,” said Collins, a former detective who spent 1989-2009 with the Brunswick Police before crossing the Androscoggin River to join Topsham’s department. Hagan started his career in Brunswick as an officer, and left in 2016 at the level of patrol commander to become Lisbon’s police chief. He begins Sept. 21 as Topsham’s chief.

“We both grew up in Brunswick and that police department, and I learned a lot of stuff that I use today, from Brunswick,” Collins said.

Both men live in Topsham, are married with six children and are in their 50s.

“This is where I’ve raised my children … this is where I do everything,” Hagan said.

Relationships forged with members of his community are a large part of what maintains his interest in police work, Hagan said, despite recent public uproar after incidents like the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, and the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“It’s a police officer’s job to help people,” Hagan said. “Most of the time, it’s people that can’t help themselves, whether it’s something as simple as a car crash. … Sometimes they’re in an abusive relationship, and sometimes – more often than not these days – it’s people with mental health issues.”

“Our goal is to leave them better than we found them,” Hagan said.

Still, the negative impact on the whole profession caused by the actions of a few officers can be daunting.

“It’s rough,” Hagan said. He recalled seeing a lot of police chiefs facing protests in their municipalities, and “they seemed surprised, because they (felt) that they had really good relationships in their community. … If you don’t have a good relationship, you’re not going to have any trust. And if you don’t have any trust, you’re going to have conflict.”

Police departments across the state “do our job very well; we’re tied in with the community in Maine,” Hagan said. “And we were all being thrown into the big bunch with what had happened out there.”

Collins noted the tactical training in use of force that he’s taught officers: “They know when they can use an appropriate level of force; they don’t make the mistakes on the street, and we’re not in the news because a little bit too much is used.”

Maine officers tend to be reserved in such cases, Collins said. “There’s that line drawn in the sand, and they usually let that line come pretty close to them, and they could use a level of force a lot sooner than they do.”

Although Hagan is with Lisbon until Sept. 11 and has yet to process aspects of his next position like budgeting and training, there are three main issues on which he will be focusing that cause police departments, officers and municipalities to be sued, he said: “lack of supervision, lack of training and bad policy … my primary task will probably be to look at all three of those up front,” along with forging relationships with officers.

“Nobody goes to work saying, ‘I hope I get managed well today.’ People go to work saying, ‘I hope I get led well,'” Hagan said. “Billy and I are on the same page, so I think people will find at the end of the day they’re getting led well.”

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