Bar Harbor police Lt. Jim Pinkham PHOTO COURTESY OF JIM PINKHAM

Pinkham retiring after 43-year police career


BAR HARBOR — One day in early July 1978, Jim Pinkham put on his Bar Harbor police uniform for the first time. 

Next Wednesday, Feb. 2, Lieutenant Pinkham will take off his uniform for the last time. He is retiring after more than 43 years on the force. 

“I can honestly say that I enjoy going to work every day as much as I did 43 years ago,” he told the Islander last week. “It’s been an amazing job for me.” 

Will he miss it? 

“I will definitely miss the men and women of the police force,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of good friends, both in the agency and out in the community.” 

But he won’t be just sitting in a rocking chair. He takes care of two estates in Bar Harbor and helps his brother with a couple in Seal Harbor. 

“I hope to enjoy a little traveling, maybe get myself a motor home,” he said. “I’ve never been farther than the Mississippi, and I’d like to go out West. That’s on my bucket list. And there’s a lot of Maine I haven’t seen. 

“I’m also looking forward to spending more time with family and friends.” 

Police Chief Jim Willis said Pinkham has been an outstanding police officer and a natural leader, mentor and role model. 

“We sometimes have volatile scenarios, and the young officers may approach things one way (based on their training),” Willis said. “And Jimmy can go to them and say, ‘Why don’t we try this other way instead. Give me a shot.’ 

“And they all come back in amazement and say, ‘He just went and talked to that guy and calmed him right down.’ 

“There are sometimes people who are a challenge to deal with when they’re wound up, and Jimmy will say, ‘You want me to go talk to them, chief?’ And I tell him I would. And he sends me an email later saying he spent an hour with them and helped put their groceries away and everything’s all good.” 

“Some might say that’s just being a good old boy,” Willis said. “Well, no, it’s just good community policing.” 

Asked about the key to good policing, Pinkham said: “It’s being firm but fair. I try to treat people the way I’d want my mother treated. It’s being able to listen and show compassion.”  

As for advice he gives young officers, Pinkham said, “Integrity and professionalism are the cornerstones to good policing. The badge does not earn respect; your actions do. Most people you encounter are good people having a bad day. 

“I enjoy coaching the younger officers and watching them develop,” Pinkham said. “They have good ideas, too, and my philosophy has always been to involve them in decision making.” 

Typical of Pinkham, one of his fondest memories is not of some dramatic arrest, but of the day sometime in the 1980s when he helped deliver a baby at a woman’s home on Main Street. 

A lot has changed since he first put on his policeman’s uniform, including advances in technology. 

“When I started, there were no cell phones,” he said. “The mobile radio we lugged around was the size and weight of a brick. All our reports were done on typewriters, and there was no computer storage.” 

Willis had been police chief only in Mount Desert until eight years ago, when he also became chief in Bar Harbor and began working to align the policies and procedures of the two departments. 

“We introduced a lot of concepts that were different for the offices in Bar Harbor, and no one was more cooperative and willing to jump into the new way than Jimmy,” Willis said. 

“A common thing for him to say to me is, ‘Chief, whatever you need, that’s what I’m gonna do.’ And he usually knows what that is before I do. He gives you peace of mind.” 

Pinkham said he has never wanted to live or work anywhere else. 

“This community has been great to me,” he said. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve the people of Bar Harbor.” 

When Pinkham told Willis he was planning to retire, the chief said he would like to have some kind of event where people could come and wish him well. 

“Jimmy came back the next day and said, ‘If we have a gathering, there will be older people coming, and I don’t want anybody getting sick with COVID because of me,’” Willis said. “That’s Jimmy. He really means that.” 

Anyone who would like to send a card or note to Jim Pinkham may address it to: Administrative Assistant Karen Richter, P.O. Box 248, Northeast Harbor, ME 04662. Messages for Pinkham also may be emailed to Richter at [email protected] 

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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