ROCKLAND — Former longtime Rockland Police Chief Alfred Ockenfels died Saturday after suffering a stroke. He was 72 years old.

“He gave his heart and soul to Rockland, and the police department. He was a good friend, and will be missed,” said former Mayor Tom Molloy.

Ockenfels grew up in Westchester, New York, and his family wanted him to join its pharmacy business, he said in a 2005 interview with The Courier-Gazette. But Ockenfels said his interests were aviation and law enforcement.

Ockenfels took flying lessons while attending Daniel Webster College in Nashua, New Hampshire, then joined the Army and served as a military police officer. After leaving the Army, he became a commercial pilot.

On one trip, he stopped at the Knox County Regional Airport in Owls Head to refuel the plane he was piloting. He said he fell in love with the area and filled out a resume at Downeast Air, which was located at the airport.

He joined Downeast Air in 1979 and became a reserve police officer. Later that year, Ockenfels was hired as a full-time patrol officer in Rockland.

He rapidly rose through the ranks to sergeant, deputy chief and in March 1989 was appointed chief of the Rockland department. During his 16 years as chief, he was instrumental in the department’s adding a harbor patrol and bicycle patrol.

When he joined the department, Rockland had one of the highest crime rates in Maine. That dropped significantly over the years, a change that Ockenfels pointed out with pride in a 2005 interview shortly before his retirement.

Two cases that the chief recalled in the 2005 interview included the February 1989 shooting of two officers responding to a domestic disturbance call on Purchase Street. The suspect fled the scene on a bicycle and went to a home on upper Holmes Street.

While the suspect was on the telephone speaking to another officer, Ockenfels and Knox County Sheriff’s Deputy Reginald Walker sneaked in the house and tackled the man.

The other case was when he confronted a man wielding a Samurai sword. Ockenfels pinned the man to a wall by pushing a table against him.

After his retirement from Rockland, Ockenfels went to Iraq to train people for that country’s police department.

He ran for sheriff in Knox County. He defeated longtime Sheriff Daniel Davey in the Republican primary in June 2006 but fell short by less than 400 votes in a three-way race in the general election, which saw Democrat Donna Dennison win.

Ockenfels also served one term on the School Administrative District 5 board of directors, representing Rockland.

He is survived by an adult daughter, Kristen.

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