Veterans advocate ‘sticks’ up for Portland police

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PORTLAND — Roger Goodoak was feeling the heat as he crossed State Street Monday morning near Deering Oaks Park.

“I dressed all wrong for this,” he said as he perspired through his long-sleeve, white dress shirt.

Goodoak, executive director of the Maine Homeless Veterans Alliance, may have been hot, but he was out because he feels the Portland Police Department has been taking unnecessary heat.

“They need to be told they are loved and appreciated,” Goodoak said as he began handing out 1,000 bumper stickers showing a heart and “Portland Police.”

Goodoak and a friend, former Marine Chris Schisler, parked at Deering Oaks then stepped out along Forest Avenue and other streets to offer drivers the free bumper stickers.

Goodoak, a Navy veteran of 12 years who was then homeless for eight years, said the bumper stickers were a response to the July 15 demonstration by the Portland Racial Justice Congress in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Eighteen people were arrested during the protest after blocking Commercial Street at the Pearl Street intersection. Organizers demanded Police Chief Michael Sauschuck  equip officers with body cameras, commit to equal justice for people of color, and create a more transparent department with more input policy and decision making by civilians.

Goodoak, who supplies food, water and clothing to the city’s homeless, while specifically seeking to help veterans, said police are already patient and compassionate.

“We support people’s opinions and their right to have their opinions. Sometimes we don’t agree with them,” he said. “I see the police every night. Everybody seems to think they jump out of their car and confront somebody. I have seen them talking to people 45 minutes to an hour to talk them down.”

After his discharge from the Navy, Goodoak said, his drinking got out of control and led to his homeless situation. He moved throughout the country, and eventually ended up at the Oxford Street Shelter.

As Goodoak entered recovery, he joined other veterans to help those in need.

“Veterans are the most stubborn people you are ever going to meet,” Goodoak said. “They just have difficulty in asking for assistance, even the people living in the woods.”

Goodoak said Cyber Copy on Forest Avenue worked with him to produce the bumper stickers. He intends to spread his message through the city.

“I want to stop by the fire department, I want to go down by the post office and walk along and hand them out to people,” he said.

On Monday, he stepped along the narrow median where Forest Avenue meets Marginal Way, sharing space with a homeless woman named Laurel Merchant, who also said city police are basically helpful to people in her situation.

Eventually, she took some stickers from Goodoak to hand out.

Goodoak recalled encounters with police in California that he said contrast with what he has seen in Portland.

“I think Portland goes above and beyond in showing its citizens, and its temporary citizens, respect,” he said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Roger Goodoak hands out bumper stickers in support of the Portland Police Department Monday, July 25, on Forest Avenue. He had 1,000 printed to give away free.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.