FREEPORT — Chief Jerry Schofield will retire next month after almost 40 years with the Police Department.
Schofield, 63, who started as a patrol officer in 1976 and rose through the ranks to become chief in 1988, said he will retire March 25. Lt. Susan Nourse will act as interim chief until a permanent replacement is found, Town Manager Peter Joseph said.
The Police Department will hold an open house March 23, from 3-6 p.m., so residents can say goodbye to Schofield and celebrate his time as chief.
Joseph said he will start the search process this week, and someone should be hired within a month after the chief’s last day. There are several police department employees who are qualified, he said, but external candidates will also be considered.
Schofield has also lived in Freeport since he started at the department. He said he loves the town and working with residents and town officials.
“I think (my favorite part of the job) has been trying to work in spirit with the (Town) Council and the community to provide high-quality law enforcement services to our community,” he said.
Joseph said Schofield has been great at working with other town departments.
“He’s been a great police chief to work with,” Joseph said. “He’s respected by the other departments in town and with the community at large.”
Caring so deeply about the community has resulted in carefully planning the budget each year, which Schofield said has been difficult.
“The biggest challenge over the years has certainly been dealing with budgets,” he said. “It’s been interesting.”
Schofield said he “understands that money is tight” for some residents, so he tries to keep taxes from increasing. He said it has been a challenge to keep taxes low while still providing necessary police services.
One way the department has tried to increase the quality of service has been the consolidation of dispatch services with Brunswick, which happened in 2010. Schofield said it was a challenge at first, but there has been no negative impact, and overall the merger has allowed more officers to provide services.
The number of officers has increased over the years, Schofield said.
“It goes hand in hand with the growth of the community,” he said. “Freeport used to be small stores owned by local people. It’s grown from what it was in those days to the tourist community it is now.”
Schofield said the way the town has evolved over the years is the result of hard work and collaboration by residents.
“The growth came as a result of teamwork from a lot of folks,” he said. “Everyone got together over the years and had a vision for the town.”
Working together and creating a team with one common goal is something the new chief will need to focus on, Schofield said. He said his successor will have to “work in the spirit of teamwork with the employees here and with the community at large.”
Schofield’s tenure also included the decision by the school system to implement one of the first DARE drug awareness program in the state, in 1989.
He said he is also proud the department created a juvenile diversion program in 1997, started a school resource officer program in 1997, created a full-time detective’s position in 2007, and began a police canine program in 2013.
Also, Schofield was president of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association in 1995 and president of the New England Association of Chiefs of Police in 2000.
Deciding to retire was a hard choice to make, Schofield said, and it took a lot of careful thought.
“It was a tough decision, probably one of the toughest ones to make,” he said.
Schofield said residents can still expect to see him around town. He said he’ll be spending his retirement working on projects around the house and just enjoying his time.
“I’d like to do more things for myself and with my family,” he said. “I could have kept working, but that shortens the window on the other side of life.”
Chief Jerry Schofield, who has been Freeport’s chief of police since 1988, is retiring at the end of March.