WATERVILLE — Ask Deputy Chief Charles Rumsey to cite a case he has worked on in the last 21 years on the Waterville Police Department that stands out for him, and without hesitation he mentions Ayla Reynolds.

The 20-month-old toddler was reported missing from her Violette Avenue home five years ago, launching the largest police investigation in Maine history. She has never been found and police say they think she is dead.

Being on the inside of the investigation, watching it unfold, working with and experiencing the cooperation between local, state and federal officials work aggressively to solve the case is something Rumsey is proud to have been a part of, he said Tuesday.

“The case isn’t successfully concluded yet, but I’m very confident, being on the inside, that everything that could be done was done,” Rumsey said.

Anyone thinking the case will remain cold might heed Rumsey’s words:

“I think if I was the person responsible for that crime, I would not be very comfortable right now,” he said. “There are people working on the case who are extremely committed and extremely competent, and I feel optimistic about that case being solved.

Asked if he thinks he knows who is responsible for Reynolds’ disappearance, Rumsey hesitates a few seconds and then responds confidently.

“I do, yes. And time will tell if the evidence bears it out.”

Rumsey, known to almost everyone as Chip, was speaking in his office Tuesday — just a day before he is to leave the department to become police chief Monday in Cumberland.

The walls of his office were bare; his desk was wiped clean. He planned to spend some time Tuesday with Bill Bonney, who has been promoted from detective sergeant to fill the deputy chief role, gather some files for him and police Chief Joseph Massey, and then on Wednesday, attend a going-away gathering of city employees.

“By about noon tomorrow, I’ll turn over my badge and my guns and my keys and I’ll walk out of the building for the last time as an employee,” Rumsey said. “The nice thing is that our profession is kind of a small community, so although I won’t be working here anymore, I won’t be far away and they (Bonney and Massey) can call for assistance. Questions may pop up and I’ll be around to help.”

FROM BABIES TO BAR FIGHTS

Rumsey, 45, has enjoyed his time in Waterville, where he earned an annual salary of $92,000, including benefits. In Cumberland, he will earn an annual salary of $90,000 not including benefits, according to published accounts.

Rumsey started in Waterville as a 25-year-old patrolman in 1995 after graduating from the University of North Dakota with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice studies.

After three years, he was promoted to detective and investigated major crimes including sexual assaults, bank robberies, child abuse and drug cases. He became patrol sergeant in 2001; and nine years ago, deputy chief. During his time here, he attended the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, and earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Maine.

He also taught police courses at Thomas College; served on the advisory committee for High Hopes Clubhouse, a club that serves people with mental illnesses; and helped develop the Children’s Advocacy Center of Kennebec and Somerset counties, which works on child abuse cases. He helped write the strategic plan, protocol and mission statement and served as co-chairman of the center’s advisory committee. It is one of the accomplishments of which he is most proud.

Rumsey served on many other boards, including that of Northern Kennebec Underage Drinking Task Force and Rape Crisis Assistance and Prevention.

“This is an incredible city to be a police officer in because of the nature of the makeup of the community,” he said.

In the course of a day, for instance, an officer might talk to a wealthy, well-educated person one minute and the next with someone who is in extreme poverty and experiencing trauma, he said.

Likewise, a cop might be comforting a child one minute and breaking up a bar fight the next.

“I’ve always felt that to be successful in the city as a police officer, you have to have quite a bit of range,” Rumsey said.

A visible presence at major crime scenes, including robberies, Rumsey spent his early years in the city covering a variety of calls.

“I think back to my time on the road and all the car chases and foot chases and bar fights and domestics, and there were many of all of those things, and they were all exciting in their own way,” he said.

As deputy chief, he was in charge of day-to-day operations at the Police Department and supervised the management team, which includes four patrol sergeants, a detective-sergeant and communications center sergeant. He also handled personnel issues and complaints from the community.

“This is an amazing police department and a tough place to be a good police officer, and I’ve known many during my time here,” he said. “I like to say I’m fiercely proud of having been here and done the things I’ve done and seen the things I’ve seen.”

Rumsey said he is confident that when he leaves, other officers will step with ease into their new roles, vacated because of the domino effect.

“The wheels aren’t coming off the bus because I’m leaving,” he said.

The Cumberland Police Department is about a third the size of Waterville’s, with 11 sworn officers and 1 administrative assistant. Waterville has 33 sworn officers and 10 civilian employees, including dispatchers. Cumberland police are dispatched through the Cumberland County Communications Center.

The town of Cumberland has a population of about 7,200, compared to Waterville’s 16,000.

“It’s going to be different,” said Rumsey, who plans to commute to Cumberland until he sells his Winslow home and moves his family to southern Maine. “Regardless of the size of a police department, every community needs to be served by very capable, responsive and dedicated police. My feeling is that so far, it seems Cumberland has that and every police department absolutely needs a very hardworking, dedicated administrator and leader — and I’m going to work every day to provide that to the town of Cumberland.”

Rumsey said he will miss the people with whom he has worked all these years, including people in his department and those in the community. He hopes he can develop the same types of relationships in Cumberland.

He is confident Bonney will do a good job as deputy chief.

“He’s a veteran of the Waterville PD and is a very capable person, and I think that he will do well in his new role. He will be supported by a whole lot of people here who understand how important it is that he succeed.”

FROM TRAGIC TO COMIC

Rumsey helped see Waterville police through the transition of moving from the basement of City Hall to a new $3.4 million police station on Colby Street three years ago. The old quarters were cramped, antiquated and inadequate for the Police Department’s needs.

“That was a very interesting project to be a part of and I think one of the things I enjoyed about it was, it wasn’t just a Police Department project; it was a community project. I think the city did an amazing job soliciting public input, and it was neat to be part of the planning, construction and move into the new facility. During that whole time, every one of us had to do our regular jobs.”

Rumsey also recalled being a young patrol officer in 1996 when two nuns were killed and two others injured at Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, which drew international attention and a massive investigation. The case was in the news again last week, when Mark Bechard, who was found criminally not responsible for the killings, asked to move from a group home to a supervised apartment.

Police continued their day-to-day duties, responding to domestic disputes and shoplifting complaints as the world’s eyes were trained on the city after the horrific event.

When recalling major cases he was involved in, Rumsey acknowledges the 21 years went quickly — and now seem to blend into each other.

“Wading into a crowd of 100 people with fights breaking out all over the place, picking hurt people up off the ground, intercepting car chases and arresting people — those things all happened,” he said.

He recalled one dicey chase that ended safely — and with an admittedly comic ending.

As a sergeant many years ago, he found himself involved in a long high-speed chase with a man wanted for domestic assault and felony drug charges. It was around 1:30 a.m. and a Waterville officer found the man’s car on First Rangeway and tried to stop him but the vehicle fled.

“I got behind him and we chased him out of Waterville into Oakland, Fairfield and Hinckley and onto River Road (in Clinton),” Rumsey said. “He went off the road into a farmyard and through a cornfield, and the corn was 6 feet tall. I just remember so vividly the corn breaking off in front of the car and having to turn on the windshield wipers to get water and smashed corn off the windshield.”

At that point, three police officers were in the chase, and one was from Fairfield. They chased the man to the end of the corn field and found him hiding in a stream that ran through a wooded area, Rumsey said. They arrested him, cuffed him and placed him in the closest cruiser — the Fairfield cruiser.

“We certainly realized that we had damaged the farmer’s corn and we wanted to be very careful on the way out not to make new rows in the corn,” Rumsey recalled.

When police got back to the farmer’s yard, they transfered the man from the Fairfield to the Waterville cruiser. The farmer had come out of his house because he had heard all the commotion.

As it turned out, the man they arrested knew the lay of the land and the farmer, because he had cut wood on the farmer’s land.

“The arrestee looks over at the farmer and says, ‘Corn looks good this year,'” Rumsey recalled. “I said, ‘Yeah, what’s left of it that you didn’t destroy.’ We put him in the back of the Waterville cruiser.

“The farmer never cracked a smile. He never changed his posture. He said, just very casually, ‘I hope he goes to jail for a very long time.'”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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