Rockport officer graduates criminal justice academy
Rockport — Rockport Police Officer Cooper Plaisted believes in order to do the job right, first you have to have the right tools for the job.
Plaisted, a recent graduate from the 26th Basic Law Enforcement Training Program, an 18-week intensive course in Vassalboro, said he feels he gained more tools for his toolbox through the program.
“The training was non-stop on everything from driving the cruiser to shooting our weapon,” he said. “We covered supervisor-subordinate relations, mental health, traffic stops, court room testimony -- we got exposure to it all.”
Plaisted was hired by the department in July to replace to Officer Wesley Butler, who joined the Camden force. A 2009 graduate of Hampden Academy, he attended University of Maine at Presque Isle where he received a bachelor’s degree in outdoor recreation.
He said growing up in Maine, he had aspirations of becoming a game warden, so while enrolled at UMPI, he also took classes in criminal justice.
“I had only those courses I took and at first started with a limited set of skills, but I knew basically what I could do,” he said. “After completing the academy I really know now what I can and can't do; like use of force and when and where I can stop a car. I feel more confident and confidence demands kind of a command presence, plus now I don't bother supervisors as much double checking things.”
He said he thought he was confident before he left for the academy, but now realizes after its completion, the training as given him a whole new outlook.
“It [the academy] makes you more confident and then the job becomes more enjoyable. I thought I was confident before I left, but after attending the academy I can really tell the difference, it is like night and day,” he said.
With a year on the job, Plaisted said he is starting to acclimate to the town and its residents as well as learning the lay of the land.
“I really like the town and the people in it,” he said. “Not growing up here, I had to learn the geography and get to know the locals. I think that they are starting to connect my face with the Rockport Police Department.”
Plaisted is eager to learn, and says the job is still new enough that every aspect of law enforcement is appealing.
“It all excites, I find more and more that all aspects of law enforcement interest me but traffic and criminal investigation is what I enjoy. There is nothing I have done that I haven't enjoyed to this point,” he said. “I'm new enough that everything is still new and exciting.”
He said he feels lucky to have experienced officers to learn from, adding Sgt. Travis Ford and Chief Mark Kelley have been willing to answer any question.
“They have been great,” he said. “They constantly encourage me to continue learning the different aspects of the job and I have let them know that I am up for any kind of continuing education to make me a better officer.”
With the academy behind him, Plaisted wants to pick-up where he has left off, building relationships and connecting with the youth of the community.
“I feel it is very, very important to create a positive relationship with the kids,” he said “I can relate to when I was growing up -- I had some contact with police, but they were all good interactions.”
Because of his age, Plaisted is in a position to be able to relate with students at Camden Hills Regional High School as well as the population of younger adults in Rockport.
“I use that as a tool to let them know I know what they are going through," he said. " I see the positives I try and be real and try to get to their level and let them understand that I am here for them and that I understand where they are coming from.”
Dwight Collins is a reporter/photographer for The Camden Herald.
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