June 26, 2008
Career in city police work comes to an end
Sgt. Bill Carpenter is retiring after more than 20 years in Cortland Police Department
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Sgt. Bill Carpenter sits in his office for the last time Wednesday after retiring from the Cortland Police Department.
“This is your last day as a police officer, but not your last day of life,” Sgt. Bill Carpenter thought to himself as he walked into City Hall Wednesday morning, his last day as a city police officer.
Carpenter, who has been in the Cortland Police Department for more than 21 years, officially retires Saturday, but is moving to Long Island today with his wife, Renee, and his three children to start a new chapter of their lives.
Carpenter will begin work Monday as a public safety officer for Hofstra University and his wife will begin her new career Tuesday as an elementary school principal.
The decision to leave the Cortland Police Department was not an easy one for Carpenter, 43.
“When I was at a young age my father was a police officer, a lieutenant with the department. I wanted to emulate what he did. I wanted to be a police officer like him,” Carpenter said. “It was a police family; that’s all I ever wanted to do.”
Gary Carpenter, who retired in 1993, died of cancer in January 2007, just two weeks before Bill Carpenter was awarded the Lawman of the Year award, an award his father was the first to receive in 1971.
Bill Carpenter graduated from Tompkins Cortland Community College and began working with the Cortland Police Department in 1987.
“It was always Cortland Police,” he said of what department he wanted to work for. “It’s my hometown, I wanted to stay here.”
Cortland Police Chief James Nichols said Carpenter was first a patrol officer and then promoted to uniform sergeant in 2000. For the past several years, Carpenter has been working as the detective sergeant in the Youth Division.
“The youth position is a difficult job. It takes a unique person to fulfill the responsibilities associated with the position,” Nichols said. “You have to be able to relate with the youth, deal with many difficult cases involving physical and sexual abuse. It can take its toll because the position deals with one of the most heinous crimes committed in our society.”
Carpenter was instrumental in building relationships with agencies such as the Cortland School District and Cortland County Child Protective Services. He researched, fundraised and implemented the child digital fingerprint identification program. He dealt with educational programs, including “You and the Law” and McGruff the crime dog.
In February 2007, Carpenter won the Lawman of the Year award for his work on a high-profile child abuse case and arrests he made in relation to a counterfeit money scam police said stretched up and down the East Coast.
The child abuse case Carpenter worked on had a direct result in new state legislation that enhanced the ability of Child Protective Services to investigate cases.
Carpenter said working as a detective sergeant in the youth division was not always easy with all the youth cases and having three children of his own.
“I have solved a lot of good cases where I can hold my head up. I go home every day and thank God I can protect my kids and know what is out there,” he said. “When I interview a victim, I try to be in their parents’ shoes. I think of them as my own kids. You have a bond with the child and you know that that child will never be the same.”
He added that his wife has helped him a lot throughout his career, emotionally and by taking care of the children and dealing with his often long hours at work.
“She’s helped me through a lot of things. A wife is the cornerstone of any family,” Carpenter said. “Renee is very caring, loving and supportive of my career. It’s a job that is very self-satisfying … We are moving to Long Island where Renee grew up. She wants to be by family, that’s where her roots are. She’s been here for 20 years with me and now it’s a different phase of our life. What’s great is that I am still going to stay in police work.”
Lt. Jon Gesin, of the city police, has worked with Carpenter his whole career.
“Bill went in six months before I was hired,” Gesin said. “He is the best cop I have ever known, hands down, and he is my best friend. I just can’t say it enough — he is the best cop I have ever worked with,” he said.
David M. Guerrera will replace Carpenter as the detective sergeant in the youth division.
Guerrera began working at the police department in 1993 and was promoted to uniform sergeant in 1999. Effective Saturday, Guerrera will become detective sergeant.
Carpenter said he plans to visit Cortland often, where his mother, Angele; sister, Regina; and friends such as Gesin will remain.
“I feel that I have a lot of loyalty to this community and I am proud to say that I followed in my father’s footsteps,” Carpenter said. “There is no greater honor than to serve the community you grew up in.”
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