YARMOUTH — Lt. Dean Perry will say goodbye to the Police Department next month after 33 years of service.
“Yarmouth has a real heart and that is why I found it so enjoyable to be here,” Perry said in an Aug. 23 interview. “I don’t think many people come into jobs these days thinking they’ll still be there 33 years later.”
Perry, 60, lives in Falmouth, but said Yarmouth has become his “go-to place” over the years.
He joined the department in 1985 as a patrol officer, moved up the ranks to sergeant in 1992 and was promoted to lieutenant in 2002. He took a brief hiatus to work for the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, which then was the Bureau of Intergovernmental Drug Enforcement.
“Narcotic addictions have always been an interest of mine,” Perry said. He took what he learned from his time with the MDEA back to the YPD, where he led the effort to increase awareness and training around the opioid crisis and mental health.
“Our job description has been evolving over time and we’re trying to stay ahead of that,” Perry said. “We’ve kind of become the catch-all for mental health issues … We’re on the front line together with emergency medical services.”
It’s a change Perry has seen over time. The shift, he said, has been in the right direction, but there’s still a long way to go as far as the amount and variety of support services offered to those struggling with mental health and/or addiction.
Another big change Perry has seen is the shrinking pool of qualified candidates who are “excited about public service.”
“Finding people that want to do police work has become harder and harder to do,” he said. He attributes some of it to evolution in technology and the capability to record everything and everyone.
“You have to make an assessment as to whether or not you want to be on display all the time. … It’s a hard way to work. It has changed fundamentally,” Perry said. “But on the other hand, you’re accountable, which is hugely important. … You have the double-edged sword. But I think that’s giving some people pause.”
Perry said the nature and expectations of the job are more of a deterrent than when he joined.
“This is a real commitment. It’s tough hours, it’s all weather … all hours, holidays, weekends, it’s everything,” he said. “There are things that interrupt the normal flow of having a relationship and a family. … It can be tough on a home life.”
Another change that hasn’t had as visible an impact on the department is the change in demographics and the population base in greater Portland. For instance, Perry said, more expensive housing in Portland means more people moving to the Mid-Coast, which leads to more traffic on Interstate 295 and, in turn, more accidents that require YPD response.
“You wouldn’t think that’d be something that’s important to law enforcement, but it certainly does eventually have an effect,” Perry said.
But certain things have stayed the same, especially the support Perry said he has had from the department and the greater community.
“It’s been a great opportunity for me,” he said. “… There’s been very positive encouragement from my boss, (Chief Michael Morrill) who’s a big supporter of education and training and life development. … All the things that people really look for in a job.”
And the sentiment goes both ways. Morrill, who was Perry’s field training officer when he joined the department, said Perry has been an important part of his life for the past 33 years, especially since he became the department’s second in command.
“He’s been a big supporter of mine for the past 16 years,” Morrill said. “He’s a great guy, very personable and cares about each individual here … That will be tremendously missed … You put a lot of trust and faith into a guy like Dean.”
But more than just that, Morrill added, Perry has become a very good friend.
“We’ve kind of come full circle from his first day to his last … His support has always been there,” Morrill said. “It’s sad seeing this chapter come to a close, but I’m also very happy for him and his next chapter. He’s going to be missed by everyone.”
Perry said he will miss the job, the department and the community as well.
From the tough days and long hours, to his favorite case – during which he and now-detective Paul Martin stopped an armed robbery with no injuries in 1991 – and 33 Clam Festivals, Perry said he regrets nothing about his time in Yarmouth.
“The support from the community has been huge. … When you have that around you, it’s really hard not to be happy with your job,” Perry said.
Following his retirement, which is effective Sept. 14, Perry said he plans to move to Florida, where his girlfriend lives. He plans to continue working, likely in construction, which he would often do as a side gig throughout his career.
Although Perry will miss the department and community, he said he feels comfortable knowing it is good hands: Sgt. Daniel Gallant will be promoted to lieutenant after Perry’s departure.
Gallant joined YPD in 1995 and achieved his current rank in 2002. According to Morrill, he will officially become the lieutenant on Sept. 10.
“Dan is a very smart and very capable police officer. He’s been a huge support to me and kind of my go-to guy,” Perry said. “(The department) has been a part of my life for 33 years. … You want to know that it’s going to be in good hands and with Dan that’s not an issue for me.”
Lt. Dean Perry is set to retire on Sept. 14 after 33 years with the Yarmouth Police Department.