For 19 years, Mike McFadden III has worked with the Belfast Police Department.

Since 2005, McFadden has served the department as a detective and has conducted his investigations from the office dedicated to his late father, Mike McFadden Jr. The elder McFadden also worked as a detective for BPD, after moving  in 1985 to Midcoast Maine from Stratford, Conn.

Now, after nearly a quarter-century of the department with a Mike McFadden on its roster,  Detective McFadden is taking a job with the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit. McFadden’s final day on the job in Belfast is Friday, Feb. 5. He said the move is bittersweet for him.

“I’ll be leaving the guys I’ve been working with for the last 19 years,” said McFadden.

McFadden said he feels as though he is “part-owner” of the department.

“It’s a comfort thing; I’m living in Belfast, and they give me a take-home car because I get called out,” he said. “Basically, when I roll out of bed, I’m on duty.”

One adjustment for McFadden will be the 40-minute commute to the CCU headquarters in Vassalboro, as he intends to continue living in Belfast.

And, because BPD serves as a CCU mini-lab, McFadden hopes he’ll occasionally be able to work locally. In addition, McFadden said he would likely be investigating computer-related crimes in Waldo County because of his familiarity with the area.

McFadden was hired in 1991 as a part-time patrol officer for Belfast. The 1986 Mount View High School graduate came on board in 1992 as a full-time dispatcher.

He moved into a full-time patrol officer position in 1995, and, in 2002, he started working as the department’s drug investigator, a post that allowed him to work closely with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, as well as with Jason Trundy and Greg Stearns, who served in similar positions for the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office.

At that time, heroin was fast becoming the drug of choice in Waldo County, and a multi-agency investigation dubbed “Operation Red Devil” produced several arrests and was coming to a close.

“That case sort of exposed the necessity for having a position dedicated to investigating drug activity in the Belfast area,” said McFadden.

While McFadden’s role as a drug investigator provided him with a number of interesting cases, he said that when he was promoted in 2005 to detective his cases became quite unpredictable.

“In a smaller police department, you usually see guys spend a lot of time in one position waiting for something else to open up, so I feel I’ve been fortunate with the types of experiences I’ve had here,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of really interesting cases, and you never really know how you’re going to end up coming by them.”

McFadden remembered one case when he opted to work an overtime Sunday day shift. “I had anticipated a slow day,” he remembered.

But the day soon turned eventful.

“I got a call from a parent in Prince Edward Island who told me that his son and his son’s girlfriend had been kidnapped by a fellow from their neck of the woods,” he said.

After a quick check into the matter, McFadden learned that the son, who was in his 20s, had been reported missing in his home country. The detective also found out that the man, who was alleged to have abducted the son and his girlfriend, was possibly staying at a motel in Belfast.

McFadden headed over to the local motel and found the accused abductor was there with his own girlfriend, along with the young couple who were reported missing.

McFadden asked to speak to the younger man but, short of a 30-second chat, he was unable to carry on a conversation without constant interruptions from the man he suspected was the kidnapper.

McFadden recalled that, although the younger male did not say anything to indicate he and his girlfriend were in trouble, the investigator’s gut told him they were.

“There was just something about his demeanor,” said McFadden.

The detective then obtained the name and birth date of the man he suspected was the abductor and left the room.

Armed with that information, McFadden was faced with another obstacle — dealing with a case that crossed the U.S.-Canadian border on a Sunday. That was problematic because, in those instances, police must use the internationally secure network Interpol to conduct business with one another.

Typically, an officer would speak with an Interpol liaison who would relay the information to authorities in Canada and get back to the inquiring officer in the states.

“The problem was, it was a Sunday, and my liaison office was not open,” said McFadden.

So he spoke directly with an Interpol agent, who at first was hesitant to offer any information on the suspect. But after McFadden told him the man was in his community, and he needed to know if the man posed a threat to police or the public, McFadden obtained the background information he needed.

McFadden returned to the motel room and demanded to speak to the young man once more, but again, the youth did not indicate there was a problem.

McFadden remained unconvinced, so he went and spoke with the motel clerk. She informed McFadden that the foursome had been at the motel for three days and had yet to pay their bill. She went on to tell McFadden that the older man — the one suspected of being the kidnapper — had convinced her to float him an $80 loan for food because he said his wallet had been stolen.

While in the midst of talking with the motel clerk, the young couple escaped the room and approached McFadden; this time it was obvious that something was amiss.

“The kid and his girlfriend come up to me, and they are panicked. They were clinging to me, and they said they wanted to leave,” McFadden said.

McFadden placed the alleged abductor under arrest for theft of services. He also learned the older woman, who appeared to be the alleged kidnapper’s girlfriend of the kidnapper, was also a victim of the older man, whom McFadden described as a “con man.”

“She had also been abducted,” McFadden said. “For the last six months that she had been with these people, this man would call her parents and he swindled $100,000 from her family.”

The man would call the woman’s family periodically to say she was either hospitalized or arrested, and her family would always send him money for fear that they would never see their loved one again.

After McFadden made his arrest, he contacted the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and learned the man in custody had allegedly swindled motels and hotels all across New England and into New York. Before long, members of the press from P.E.I. and Halifax, Nova Scotia, were contacting the department for information on the case.

McFadden also unearthed a blog written by people who had been victims of the alleged con man he was investigating. “That’s the kind of stuff I end up falling into. It’s a local issue, but then it turns out to be more than just a local issue,” he said.

Eventually, there came a point in McFadden’s career when he felt unfamiliar with an aspect of law enforcement that he considers very important to solving crimes these days; investigating crimes involving computer technology.

His first computer-related case pertained to former SAD 34 director and education technician Kenneth Joondeph, who was convicted in 2007 of sexual exploitation of a minor, unlawful sexual contact and dissemination of sexually explicit material. The charges were in connection to images, sent electronically to the Belfast Police Department in March 2006, depicting a young boy touching Joondeph’s genitals.

“That case was really interesting in that when you get a child-abuse case, it has many forms,” he said. “But images of the actual abuse are not usually part of the report and, with this one, there were photos of the actual abuse. It’s a huge motivator to see a young child enduring that type of abuse.”

The second McFadden learned of the case, he did what he said was the smartest thing he’s ever done: contacted what was then called the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Task Force.

“Back then, the big obstacle for me was the computer component, which I knew absolutely nothing about,” he said.

He learned about the existing subculture of people who use computers to commit those kinds of crimes, and, in the years that followed, he worked with what is now the CCU to find out more about the online lingo and what sites to visit when looking for specific information.

He took the initiative to train himself about that fairly new side of law enforcement, because he said the thought of being unable to investigate those kinds of crimes was scary to him.

“If someone is interested in observing the sexual abuse of children, there’s an extremely high potential that those people are going to act on those interests at some point in the future,” he said.

These days, when he learns about a sexual-abuse case, he instantly checks the contents of a suspect’s computer, and if he investigates a report of child pornography, he often supposes there may be actual abuse victims in the suspect’s midst.

“It’s not scary to me anymore,” he said. “I can investigate these crimes now, and if I can do that, the bad guys can’t get away with these things anymore.”

While he said his move to the CCU would be an exciting one, he will begin by bringing his skills as an investigator, interviewer and interrogator to the table. “I am not a [forensic] analyst; they are a special breed of people,” McFadden said.

But he hopes to learn more about that end of the job as he becomes more comfortable in his position with CCU. McFadden said he holds that arm of the Maine State Police in the highest regard, and he was pleasantly surprised when he was awarded the position with the unit.

Although McFadden ended up as a detective for BPD like his father, he said following in his dad’s footsteps was not his intention. “I have no idea what inspired me to do this job,” he said with a smile.

He credited veteran law enforcement officers, including former sheriffs Stan Knox and John Ford, who was on his way in as the newly elected sheriff, for initially hiring him as a corrections officer in 1990. After that, he worked a few scattered shifts as a patrol deputy, which is what laid the foundation a few years later for his work as an officer and dispatcher with BPD.

Former Belfast chiefs Bob Keating — now chief deputy for WCSO — and Allen Weaver, gave McFadden his start as a regular patrol officer, and Chief Jeff Trafton helped him on his way to becoming a detective.

“I think my dad would like it if I said he inspired me to do this, but that’s not really the truth,” he said. “It wasn’t until after I got into law enforcement that I truly appreciated the things that he did. He inspires me now.”

McFadden said he would miss working with the people and places he’s come to know during his years of serving the city.

“I’ve worked hard, and I’ve tried to do the best I could for the community,” he said. “I’m not worried at all; the community is in very good hands, and my absence won’t affect the quality of service that this community has.”