Gene O’Neill said the most rewarding aspect of his career with the Scarborough Police Department was finding peaceful resolutions in dangerous situations. Drew Johnson / Leader

From patrol officer to detective and crisis negotiator to full-time harbor master for Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth, Gene O’Neill has had a full and varied career.

Now O’Neill is cutting back to part time to make way for a new marine resource officer and harbor master before retiring from the Scarborough Police Department.

“I really enjoyed my time here, he said in an interview at his office on Pine Point. “I enjoyed it so much I’m staying on part time.”

O’Neill “caught the law enforcement bug” in 1979 as a summer officer in Old Orchard Beach, where he lives. He then served as a reserve officer for Old Orchard Beach and in the corrections division of the York County Sheriff’s Department.

“During the summer, for a couple of years, I got out of work at the Sheriff’s Department at 11 o’clock, changed my uniform and worked from midnight to 3 a.m.,” O’Neill said Tuesday. “During the summer, we were busy down there.”

O’Neill said he was friends with several members of the Scarborough Police Department, including former longtime Chief Robert Moulton.


“I said, ‘You know, that’s a town I think I want to go to,'” O’Neill said. “So, I took the test and got hired on Jan. 11, 1988.”

While starting as a patrol officer, O’Neill was eventually promoted to detective and then to sergeant. Finding peaceful resolutions to dangerous situations has been one of the most rewarding aspects of his job, he said, and that often came when he worked as a crisis negotiator.

“When you have someone that’s barricaded with a gun, especially if they’re holding someone, and you negotiate with them and get them out – that’s a really great feeling,” he said. “Everybody’s alive.”

O’Neill was Scarborough Lt. Tim Barker’s first supervisor.

“Gene was always a pleasure to work with,” Barker said. “He had the unique ability to connect with anyone and was always witty.”

In 2021, O’Neill took on the role of harbor master and marine resource officer for Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth.


“I’m getting old, you know, and they needed a harbor master,” O’Neill said. “I took off my sergeant stripes and put on this uniform.”

In that position, O’Neill “makes sure everybody’s getting along, that all the equipment is working properly, boats are registered,” and he ensures everyone going out on the water is safe and not intoxicated.

“As far as shellfish go, my main job with that is to keep an eye on the clam harvesters,” O’Neill said. “Make sure that the clams are legal, they have a license, and also (at times) we have to close certain areas from clamming.”

Heavy rainfall can lead to runoff that can contaminate clams and sicken those who eat them, he said. It’s been his job to relay to harvesters what areas are being closed by the state and ensure they follow protocol.

“Also, I’m still a police officer; I go to Pine Point calls. I do a lot of patrolling down here,” O’Neill said, especially during beach season. “I keep an eye on traffic, crowd control and any issues on the beaches.”

Cape Elizabeth Police Chief Paul Fenton was training as a reserve officer in the 1990s, and O’Neill was one of his instructors.


“This job, it’s hard not to get frustrated at times, but he was always calm, cool and collected,” Fenton said.

The Cape Elizabeth chief noted he hasn’t had to work with O’Neill too closely as marine resource officer – which is a good thing.

“The less I hear from them, the better job they’re doing,” he said.

O’Neill said his career has been full of many highs and lows, but he ultimately will look back on it fondly.

“I’ve had a great career with a great police department and I met some outstanding people and made some great friends,” he said. “There were some stressful times, but there were some really, really good times.”

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