SKOWHEGAN — Deputy Police Chief Rick Bonneau has added a new word to his title: retired.

And, as of Jan. 3, it will simply be Rick Bonneau, private citizen.

Bonneau, 50, is calling it quits after 25 years with the Skowhegan Police Department.

“I leave this department with heaviness in my heart,” Bonneau wrote in a statement on his retirement.

“I also leave knowing that the leadership in this agency is top notch and the officers will be well cared for. I am a very fortunate person to have worked with and known each and every one of you.”

Dale Lancaster, 56, of Cornville, took over the job as deputy police chief Dec. 5. Lancaster is a 27-year veteran of the Maine State Police who retired from the command staff this past summer with the rank of major.

Bonneau began working at the Skowhegan Police Department on April 9, 1987 — during the great flood that inundated downtown Skowhegan and other communities along the Kennebec River.

“At that time, I was a 26-year-old officer that was going to change the world of law enforcement and make a big difference in my community,” Bonneau wrote, referring to it as the “John Wayne syndrome.”

“Over the years, time and common sense made me realize you can’t expect to make all of the changes you would like to see, but come to realize that the changes have to be within yourself and of a reasonable scale.”

Before coming to Skowhegan, Bonneau served in the Army as a military police officer for five years.

Skowhegan Police Chief Michael Emmons said he worked with Bonneau for more than four years.

“Rick is a wonderful person, a wonderful individual — he’s been a great deputy chief,” Emmons said. “For me coming in here new, he was extremely supportive; we made a good team. He has a wealth of knowledge and never balked at changes I wanted to make.”

Bonneau said when he first started in law enforcement, a police officer simply had to possess the ability to physically overcome a suspect.

He said police work since has shifted gears to a more professional and educated approach, where an officer with 18 weeks of training at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy is expected to make decisions and act on these decisions, sometimes in a split second.

A police report that in the old days was filed on the back of a 3-by-5-inch index card now spans several pages, he said.

“A law enforcement officer is a unique breed of person,” Bonneau said. “We unnaturally run to danger while most run from it. We are among a group of a very large brotherhood that knows no boundaries. Not unlike our extended families of firefighters and other emergency response personnel.”

Bonneau said he and his wife and their 5-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever will move to Charlotte, N.C., where he plans to help a family member manage rental property.

He also will continue his work with computers.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

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