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Retiring police chiefs powwow in Gouverneur

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GOUVERNEUR — Get three retiring police chiefs together for a luncheon; what would be the expected topics of conversation?

Shop, of course. Old murder cases. How their paths crossed in police training years ago. How they will be succeeded. Retirement plans.

Something that the department heads in Carthage, Gouverneur and Watertown say they have never seen happen before in the north country is taking place this year — they are among six police chiefs who in the same year are removing their badges in favor of retirement.

Carthage Chief Reevie A. Rockhill, 51, who said Aug. 3 will be his last day on the job, attempted to mark the unusual circumstance with lunch Wednesday at the Casablanca Restaurant. He was joined by Gouverneur Chief David C. Whitton, 64, who later in the day told village fathers that May 30 will be his last day, and Watertown Chief Joseph J. Goss, who leaves his job June 29.

Other commitments prevented three already retired chiefs, Edward F. Tischler, 52, of Potsdam, Alan P. Mulkin, 52, of Canton, and Brian K. Mullaney, 63, of Alexandria Bay, from attending.

Their lines of succession were of particular interest to the three at lunch, joined by Chief Rockhill’s wife, Vicki, and two reporters. Watertown faces a challenge in filling his seat, Chief Goss said. The next police chief will be required to have a residence in the city and will have to assume 25 percent of health insurance costs, he said. None of the members of his department who are eligible to take a Civil Service test for chief lives in the city, he said.

In Carthage, the direction to be taken by a special committee is unclear, Chief Rockhill said. Perhaps there will be no chief: the highest ranking officer may be a sergeant.

The outgoing chief said he is an advocate of Carthage and West Carthage merging their departments. “They should have done that 50 years ago,” he said. But a study on such a reorganization has been shelved.

Chief Whitton, whose position was reduced to part-time by his village board, said he knows only that his successor will have a full-time job. Beyond that, he could not speculate how his position will be filled.

That six of them are leaving at once appears to be a mere anomaly. There is nothing about the job or changes in law enforcement that spurred the multiple retirements, they said.

“The time just seemed right,” said Chief Goss, who will be departing with just shy of 30 years in uniform. He said he has no immediate plans for a career change, especially since there is work at home to catch up on.

A return to Malone, where he was born, awaits Chief Rockhill, who looks ahead to horseback riding and raising cattle.

Chief Whitton said he is focused on spending quality time with family.

Their shop talk included the murders of two children in Watertown by serial killer Arthur Shawcross, the 1968 murder of Irene Izak on Wellesley Island and the shooting 22 years ago of Tina Hosmer Smith in Watertown.

A glimpse of the retirees’ careers follows.

nJoseph J. Goss began his Watertown police career in July 1982, and was appointed chief May 22, 2006.

nAlan P. Mulkin, Canton police chief who retired April 27, was an Elmira policeman, then Norwood police chief before joining the Canton Police Department in 1990. He was appointed chief Nov. 14, 1994.

nBrian K. Mullaney, part-time Alexandria Bay chief since 1998, became interim chief in May 2008 and was appointed chief in August 2009.

nReevie A. Rockhill began his police career in July 1988 in Barre Town, Vt.; came to the Carthage police department on July 31, 1992, and was appointed chief Aug. 5, 2002.

nEdward F. Tischler retired in March, after 24 years on the job. He started as a St. Lawrence County deputy sheriff about 1988, went to the Potsdam Police Department in 1990 and was appointed chief in June 2010.

nDavid C. Whitton joined the Gouverneur police department in July 1971, and was appointed chief in 1987.

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