Patrolman Howard Dakin reported to work at the Belfast Police Department Monday, Nov. 29, just as he had for the last 21 years.

As of Tuesday, Nov. 30, however, Dakin’s life is no longer focused on responding to public complaints, covering car accidents or making arrests.

Instead, the career police officer hopes to spend more time with his family, which includes two children, five grandchildren and his wife of nearly 38 years, Brenda.

Dakin put on his police uniform for the last time Monday morning, a ritual that he said would be tough to end come his first day of retirement Nov. 30.

“I won’t know what to put on in the morning,” said Dakin, who followed up his comment with the laugh that has been so commonly heard within the walls of the Belfast Police Department for more than two decades.

Dakin graduated from Searsport District High School in 1971, and it didn’t take long before his career in law enforcement began to take shape. In July of the same year, Dakin received a draft notice from the Army, but he opted to enlist in the Air Force instead.

“Then I became a police officer,” said Dakin.

Dakin completed his training at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas in August 1971, and began his work in law enforcement while stationed at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. He joined the U.S. Armed Forces Police, which includes police officers from all military branches and is based in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“We specialized in picking up [Absent Without Leaves] and deserters,” remembered Dakin.

In addition, the U.S. Armed Forces Police made appearances at more than 70 military funerals during the time that Dakin served with them, acting as pallbearers at services in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The special police force also participated in parades to honor veterans who were returning home from the Vietnam War and guarded Air Force One when the presidential plane flew into New York.

All the while, Dakin was courting his wife-to-be, Brenda, whom he met while the two were working at Viking Lumber in Belfast before Dakin joined the Air Force. Thursday, Dec. 2, marks 38 years of marriage for the Dakins, a milestone that Dakin said still amazes him when he thinks about the first impression he made when the couple met.

“She couldn’t stand me,” he said, noting that Brenda worked in the office of the lumberyard while he was a deliveryman who seldom got his paperwork in on time.

Over time, though, Dakin said he won over the object of his affection, adding that perhaps the most important contributor to his success was that, “I got to be friends with her dad.”

The couple exchanged letters until Dakin returned home to Maine in June 1972, when they had their first date. Dakin escorted his future bride to her high school graduation decked out in full dress uniform.

Although the couple didn’t get another opportunity to go out again until the following September, Dakin said they didn’t waste any time starting their life together.

“We were engaged in October and we were married in December,” recalled the officer, who fondly remembered the ceremony at a small church in Belfast. Then Dakin paused, chuckled and added, “I had to ask her three times before she’d marry me… When I did it the right way, she said yes.”

The Dakins’ wedding photographer was another longstanding figure in local law enforcement, Owen Smith, who serves as communications director at the Waldo County Regional Communications Center these days.

The Dakins started their life together in New York before moving to Colorado, where their children were born. While his son was young, Dakin spent a year serving in Turkey. Though Dakin had a satellite phone and he could call home often, the separation was hard on the young family.

“I saw my son grow up and learn to walk in pictures. He was seven months old when I left for Turkey,” said Dakin.

After Dakin returned from Turkey in the spring of 1979, the family decided it was time to come back to Maine. Soon after, Dakin landed a job with the town of Searsport, where he initially worked for the highway department. He joined the Searsport Police Department in 1981.

Dakin spent eight years working for the Searsport department, and he has no shortage of memories of his time there.

Dakin recalled one evening when a local man whom police commonly dealt with was causing a disturbance. Dakin’s coworker, Officer Norm Stimpson, responded to the complaint and when he arrived, a young man met the officer with a gun.

Dakin said Stimpson was eventually forced to shoot the young man, and Dakin went to the scene to relieve Stimpson. As ambulance personnel were wheeling the young man away on a gurney, Dakin said the injured man offered an unflattering gesture and comment on his way to the ambulance. The young man survived the ordeal and served several years in prison. All that time, the man sent Dakin threatening letters and he constantly promised to bring harm to his family upon his release from prison.

But, Dakin said, life is full of unexpected twists.

“The day he got out of prison, he and his drunken buddy were out riding around and they hit a telephone pole,” recalled Dakin. “He was killed less than eight hours after he got out.”

After a short stint working for the Bucksport Police Department, Dakin was hired at the Belfast Police Department to replace departing officer Bill Francis in November 1989. Bob Keating was chief of police in those days, and Dakin was one of several officers who were hired as part of an effort to curb crime during the city’s grittier days. Back then, officers such as Wendall Ward, Eric Kelley and Eric Harvey were relatively new to the Belfast law enforcement scene.

“We were the young guys who were being brought in to clean the place up,” recalled Dakin.

Keating, who is now the chief deputy at the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office, remembered Dakin as a young officer who had an impressive law enforcement background when he came on board at BPD.

“He was a good police officer who did a good job for the citizens of Belfast, and he was also a good family man,” Keating said.

Dakin fondly recalled his first night on the job for Belfast, when he, Harvey and Ward responded to a complaint at what were once apartments at 64 Church St.

“My first arrest was out of there that night, and I rode the guy all the way down the stairs,” chuckled Dakin, adding that the man involved was not hurt.

Dakin arrested the man, who was intoxicated, and began escorting him down the stairs and out to the cruiser. Due to the ice and snow that was still on Dakin’s boots, the officer lost his footing and both men tumbled down the stairs.

Dakin regained his footing and placed the man in the back of the cruiser. But before Dakin could climb into the driver’s seat, his fellow officers had set Dakin’s initiation in motion.

As Dakin got in the driver’s seat to transport the man to jail, his eyes began burning, watering and swelling. Apparently, Ward and Harvey had sprayed a healthy dose of mace into the cab of the cruiser, and left the heat running.

“That’s when I realized I wasn’t going to carry [mace],” said Dakin.

On another occasion, Dakin was patrolling the city with Bryan Cunningham, who is now a sergeant detective for the BPD. The two spotted a fire at a home behind Jack’s Grocery, and sprang into action to rescue a man who was still inside. Once the officers got the man out of the house, Dakin administered CPR.

“I gave him a breath, he threw up, then I threw up and everything was fine,” recalled Dakin.

Over the years, Dakin said he had been thankful to have worked with so many local law enforcement officers, including Ken Fitzjurls, who retired from BPD after more than 30 years of service. Dakin was Fitzjurls’ partner for 14 years, and Fitzjurls held the scanner name of “Belfast 6” before Dakin took it over in 2009.

Belfast Police Chief Jeff Trafton said Dakin had been a pleasure to work with and that he would be sorry to see Dakin leave the profession.

“That’s nearly 40 years of law enforcement experience walking out the door,” he said. “He was a pleasure to work with, and he always had a good sense of humor.”

Out of all the people Dakin has helped over the years, he said he would most miss those who seemed to ask the least of him.

“It’s the older people, the people who apologize for having to bother you,” he said. “Whether it’s the little old lady who locked herself out of her house, or her husband has fallen and she needs help getting him up off the floor. Those are the people I’ll miss seeing.”

When asked what he would say to all of the people he’s worked with over the years, his response was simple but meaningful — “thanks.”