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How a Maine cop who wasn’t even on Facebook became a social media star

“I believe the small stories are the important stories”

BANGOR, Maine — In 2014, after years as a patrol officer and then a detective, Tim Cotton took a different job at the Bangor Police Department and became its public information officer. Among his new responsibilities was maintaining the department’s Facebook page, about which he couldn’t have been less enthusiastic.

“I had no interest,” he says. “Zero interest. It was a difficult transition for me because I didn’t even have a Facebook account at the time.”

What he did have was a sense of humor and he wasn’t afraid to inject it into his accounts of what cops deal with every day, which is humanity at its best and worst. “I just decided to do it the way I was going to do it,” he says of writing the Facebook page. “I ran it by the chief. The chief said, “Do what you want to do—just don’t talk about religion and politics.”

Cotton’s humor and his frequent use of a taxidermied bird known as the Duck of Justice (that’s a story too long to get into here, although countless Mainers are already familiar with it) soon caught on, and the number of people following the department’s Facebook page rocketed from 9,000 to more than 300,000. Along the way Cotton became something of a celebrity, and now he’s written a book with stories from his more than thirty years in law enforcement called “The Detective in the Dooryard.”

“If you offered me the choice between participating in a late-night raid into the den of criminality, or speaking to the arrestees for hours on end,” he writes, “I would always choose the latter. Through the years I turned many a pleasant conversation into a confession, later to become a conviction.”

Cotton likes to talk, to write, to swap tales that have nothing to do with blaring sirens or blazing guns. “I believe the small stories are the important stories,” he writes. “The big stories happen, but they don’t happen that often, and this book isn’t one of them. There are no Feds, dragons, or explosions. There are only stories that I believe are worth telling.”

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