AUGUSTA — Edward Tolan was just 7 years old when his father, John Tolan, a Portland fire department captain, left for work on a beautiful summer morning and didn’t make it home alive. After helping to fight a two-alarm fire, John Tolan, 46, died from smoke inhalation.

Edward Tolan remembered his father on Thursday morning, as the sun shone, temperatures approached 90 degrees and dozens of police officers from across Maine stood at attention on State Street in Augusta. They were outside the State House, holding a remembrance for Maine police who have died while serving.

“While I’m proud of my dad, I would have much rather he come home that night,” said Edward Tolan, who is now chief of the Falmouth Police Department and president of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association.

The officers came to the state capital for the 26th annual Maine Law Enforcement Service. The ceremony was held in front of a granite wall on State Street that memorializes all Maine law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. More than 80 names are now engraved into the wall.

Several members of Maine’s law enforcement community spoke during the ceremony, including Tolan and Janet Mills, the state’s attorney general, who delivered a keynote address to the more than 100 people who gathered.

In their remarks, Tolan and Mills spoke of the risks police officers take every day and the chaos they keep at bay. In 2016, 145 police officers across the country died while working.

Besides praising the officers who “accept danger every day,” Tolan said that what he “can’t put up with is the lack of respect” some people show toward police.

Mills alluded to more recent developments in policing, like the growing use of naloxone, a drug that combats the effects of a heroin overdose, and the comical use of a duck as the Bangor Police Department’s unofficial mascot.

She told stories of some of the Maine officers who have died, including Daryl Gordon, a Maine Warden Service pilot whose plane crashed on Clear Lake in Piscataquis County. Fifteen game wardens are now listed on the State Memorial, which is the most of any branch of law enforcement in Maine, Mills said.

Mills also recalled a protracted shootout more than 50 years ago in the town of Limerick, which happened after a man fatally shot his wife. During the shootout, Pierre Harnois, a police chief, was also shot and killed. Many of the dangerous calls for Maine police officers involve domestic violence incidents, Mills said, but simply driving along the road can also be dangerous for them.

For the crowd gathered on Thursday, Mills said, “the law is not some dusty book sitting on a shelf.”

The remembrance ceremony included a procession by officers from across the state, including members of the Maine State Police, the Maine Warden Service, county sheriff’s offices and local police departments. A band from the Maine State Police played bag pipes and drums. Participants laid wreaths by the memorial.

It’s also National Police Week, a remembrance that was started by law enforcement groups in 1982, and Monday was Peace Officers’ Memorial Day, which was started by President John F. Kennedy in 1962.

This story was updated at 8:55 a.m. on May 19, 2017 to correct John Tolan,  was a Portland fire department captain, not a police captain. 

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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