Wiscasset’s new chief of police Larry Hesseltine has been on the job for less than a full week, but he’s already identified his primary task.
“We have to staff up,” he said. “It’s a slow process, but we have several applicants so far.” It’s slow because police officers have to pass background checks and get training, and people new to policing are more likely to be attracted to a small town, so they might not have been to the academy yet.
Hesseltine’s 30-year career started in 1988 in Lincoln. He moved to the Knox County Sheriff’s Office in 1999, rising through the ranks to first sergeant, then lieutenant.
Then he took a bit of a turn. He accepted a civilian contract with Dynacorps, which took him to Iraq to train Iraqi police for a year. He returned to Knox County as Vinalhaven Resident Officer, the epitome of community policing. “It was a 24-hour job,” he recalled. “But it was great. You got to know everyone very well. They got to know you as a person, and that changes how people see police officers.”
He joined Waldoboro Police Department in 2013, and kept the community policing model alive with DARE in the schools. He said he was ready to lead a department, and two years ago, he applied to be Wiscasset’s chief of police. The job went to Jeff Lange. When it opened up again, Hesseltine reapplied.
Hesseltine said he is finding it challenging to finish up a few reports outstanding from Waldoboro, while also serving as Wiscasset’s chief, and being one of the only officers on call. “It will change as we get more people on staff.” He said he and Sgt. Craig Worster are getting along well and finding a rhythm, but it’s still only the two of them.
He wants to find a good candidate for school resource officer. He said he hadn’t yet talked to the new superintendent, but hopes he and her will find a way to fully integrate police into the schools, as part of his commitment to community policing. “I’m a real fan of (it). My goal is to get out into the community and see what people want. But of course, we have to be fully staffed first.” He expects staff to participate in special events and be a visible part of community life. That could be challenging, he said. He discovered a police bicycle in storage, and said it would be great to have a police officer do a beat on a bicycle, especially downtown.
“But then you need to be able to have him have access to a car if there’s a real emergency,” he said.
Hesseltine said he hoped to get the kinks in the public information system worked out very soon.
Asked if Wiscasset’s regular discussion about whether or not to keep its police department gave him pause, he said he had thought about it. But he said, “Wiscasset wants its police department. For as long as I remember, Wiscasset has had a police department, and I don’t see that changing.”