BANGOR – When the command “Troop ten-hut” sounded Wednesday morning in the room, three lines of state troopers and officers, once relaxed, turned rigid.
Shoes were polished, uniforms were immaculate. The officers held their arms firmly against their sides.
The more than two dozen members of Troop E, which serves Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, were ready for the annual inspection, a ritual dating back to the early part of last century.
With heavy rain falling, the early morning inspection was moved indoors at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Bangor. The troopers and sergeants stood at attention as Col. Craig Poulin, head of the Maine State Police, and his command staff addressed each trooper, asking questions and inspecting their uniforms.
Wednesday’s inspection was part of a monthlong tour of Maine’s seven troop barracks and the detectives and commercial vehicle enforcement divisions representing more than 330 officers, as well as about 125 civilian support staff, including at the state crime lab.
Amid the formality of the event, Poulin’s questions on Wednesday proved more informal.
He stopped before Trooper Michael Johnston and asked the trooper how his cruiser was doing.
“One hundred and seven thousand miles and going strong, sir,” Johnston replied.
In another line, Poulin spoke with Sgt. Mark Brooks about the massive wind turbine pedestal that slowed traffic that morning as it was being transported through eastern Maine to Mars Hill.
“I didn’t think they were going to make that 90 degree turn, but they did,” Poulin said about a turn in Hampden.
State troopers in cruisers escorted the turbine pedestal through municipalities, something that Poulin acknowledged was part of the increased duties being required of state troopers.
“What it does underscore is that we do ask you to do a variety of things,” Poulin told the troopers in a meeting after the inspection.
Last year, troopers were asked to ramp up traffic enforcement, from stopping speeders to stopping drivers who shouldn’t be on the road, whether they had lost their privilege to drive or those too intoxicated to drive.
Poulin pointed to those efforts for at least contributing to continued low numbers of fatalities on Maine roadways.
There have been 138 fatalities on Maine roads so far this year, compared to 136 at this same time last year, Stephen McCausland, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said Wednesday. Last year there were about 166 roadway deaths, the lowest since 1982.
“I think your efforts have paid off,” Poulin told the troopers.