We Will Be Here: On Donuts, Dogs, the Duck of Justice and Other Non-Emergencies

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Bangor PD after Color Run (and the station's water system broke)

We are again in need of a break from the latest batshit executive follies: Nominating himself for the Nobel Peace Prize; grazing like any thick doddering geezer, national "emergency" notwithstanding, at the scuzzy omelette bar at his scuzzy golf club; fuming about punishing a late-night comedy show on the teevee - "This is the real Collusion!" - because what First Amendment? For a touch of comic relief mixed with improbable humanity, we turn to the slice-of-Maine-life that is the Bangor Police Department's Facebook page, full of wry tales of good deeds, small crimes like ineptly self-updated license plate registrations - a "weak effort in criminal behavior" - hope, grief, dogs, drugs, empathy, cereal, their "marginally famous" Duck of Justice, the universal "fight to find the light," small acts of grace and, yes, donuts. To get real: These are cops, white men (mostly) with power, so there have to be some skanky acts going unrecorded. Lieut. Tim Cotton, a detective and the page's author/administrator, addresses the ugly elephant in the room: "Of course there are bad cops that need to be out of the industry (and) out of a job. But most cops are good people. I hear cops do interviews saying, ‘We want to show that we’re human’" - which is "a given. We need to show kindness, empathy and humor."

When Cotton took over the page in 2014, it had about 9,000 followers. Today, it boasts just over 300,000, or almost ten times the population of Bangor - according to the most recent stats, 31,903. Cotton, who insists he is "no social media genius" but now has his own fan page, mostly offers dry musings on multiple topics. Weather: "The few inches of snow should pair nicely with freezing rain later tonight." Requests for I.D. from surveillance videos - "No, he didn't win anything" - of a guy breaking into cars, helpfully noting cowboy boots are a bane in quick getaways on ice, or a guy getting meds with a fake scrip - "Biff had skipped medical school due to time constraints and the fact that he was never accepted at medical school...Spending hours on WebMD instilled a certain confidence in Biff. He decided to call in his own prescriptions. Biff took off his stethoscope, made from a pair of first generation IPod headphones and a suction cup from a refrigerator hook designed to hold a hand towel." Odd emergency calls, "Got Warrants," he deliberately keeps light - "We also have crooks, sex offenders and drug dealers...Picture us as the farmer who is sick of losing chickens. Still friendly but keeping an eye out as he weeds the corn. Corn is good" - like the guy threatening another with a screwdriver: "Initially, we were hoping that it was a mixed cocktail and pleasant conversation would be initiated while (they) broke bread and bonded in the way that boys should bond. Nope."

A terrific writer, Cotton goes on meandering riffs on the rules of "intra-home sharing of plaid flannel shirts" - from the Flannel Wearers and Owners Association of Maine (FWAOAOM), "Flannel seized is flannel earned," usually by women - and snowstorm tips for clueless flatlanders: Don't shovel too early or wait too long, help out older neighbors, don't buy bread but cereal especially Cap'n Crunch, don't run generators inside, have flashlights 'cause you might need them to find the cereal, etc. He recently marked the anniversary of his much-loved post about a donut in the middle of the road: "With no specific plan or destination in mind, he made the decision to separate himself from the crowd and go his own way...His father, a baker, had molded him as an individual... With glazed eyes, a sweet spirit, and an unfilled core, he wanders on. An individual who treats loneliness as a partner and the macadam as his mistress...Don’t be hindered and bound by decisions made by others. Be the Donut you want to be. There is nothing sweeter." There are upbeat stories of a pretty good day of checking on a woman whose family is worried about her: "She answers the door and you smell homemade muffins. Her cell phone charger was chewed up by the dog and she will get a new one today...Everyone is relieved. The muffins were excellent." There are many photos: dogs, kids, pigs, goats, more dogs, even more people posing with the illustrious Duck of Justice, a favorite of locals and tourists; a family from France all wore “Duck of Justice” shirts.

Not everything here, like anywhere, is Mayberry-cheery. Cotton chases down a domestic abuser who threw a  glass at his girlfriend: He tackles him - "his mouth emits excessive noise" - takes him "into a comfortable and nurturing embrace," finds the girlfriend to offer help, hopes the guy will be a former boyfriend but "knows it doesn't always work that way." He helps resolve a mental health crisis on a roof. On a day that "started sad and stayed that way," he offers $10 dollar Subway gift cards "to mitigate the sadness on some kids' faces which did not shine as brightly as they should have." And he gets calls of suicides "much too often," especially "as we lose daylight in our part of the world... We (and I mean all of us) need to keep our eyes and ears open in our own pursuit of the light for others who are struggling." Wondering if a "small act of kindness" can make a difference, he offers up a supremely Cotton-like lesson, complete with goofy slo-mo video: A dog catching and eating a wayward strand of fettucine, al dente, no sauce, as a symbolic moment when "one small glimmer of hope" can change one's "outlook on the day." "It might be a little simplistic," he concedes, "but don’t you think the humanity around us deserves at least the same level of hope? For those who have trouble finding the light, please reach out." He ends with numbers for crisis hotlines, "That's all I got," and his regular sign-off: "Keep your hands to yourself, leave other people’s things alone, and be kind to one another. We will be here."

 
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Circle of caring around the Duck of Justice
 
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 Aki

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