Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Sarah Bullock, who covers crime and courts for the Cortland Voice.
It was negative six degrees out as I walked at eight Wednesday morning to the city police station, the arctic wind of a polar vortex just starting to raise its voice. I heard a call from a police Tahoe parked in front and smiled as I saw Lt. Rick Troyer in patrol blues for the last time.
“I came in uniform, I’m going out in uniform,” Troyer said through his open window as I leaned on the patrol car. He could have been warm inside his office, like other patrol officers would wish to be, but he was retiring on his own terms: riding shotgun with his son, Patrol Officer Adam Troyer.
And Troyer was not about to waste the day looking back over his 39-and-a-half year career. He wanted to talk about the murder trial going on in Cortland County court this week. The detective lieutenant known for gently prying confessions from suspects was busy giving me background insight about the videotaped police interview of the defendant we had watched in court the day before. Troyer explained the red flags in the defendant’s behavior and interview techniques.
As Troyer talked, I listened.
After nearly four decades on the job, Troyer has the ear of most officers, prosecutors and lawmen. He’s earned it. His 39 years in service is the equivalent to almost two careers since most officers retire after 20 years. Troyer started working for the city in September 1979 – a month after the department’s newest detective, Sgt. Cheyenne Cute, was born.
His prowess at crime solving is also well-respected across different departments. One retired officer who stopped by Troyer’s office on his last day told me Troyer’s nickname used to be “Homicide” for the cases he closed. Cortland County Sheriff Mark Helms and University Police Chief Mark DePaull both attended Troyer’s retirement ceremony Monday, as did Cortland Fire Chief Wayne Friedman.
But it’s Troyer’s listening ear, and caring advice, that will be missed most around the department. At the Monday ceremony, City Police Chief F. Michael Catalano said all the department’s daily briefing – both official and unofficial – were held in Troyer’s office. When I wrote a story for Troyer 35th year on the job, Deputy Chief Paul Sandy told me it was Troyer’s advice that helped him navigate the ups and downs of being a police officer and stay in service.
Sandy described first meeting with Troyer at the lieutenant’s retirement party last week. Sandy, a new patrol officer, had walked up to several city officers at the station and asked if they were his field training officer only to be directed like a little bird in a Dr. Seuss book to someone else. Finally, he was sent to Troyer. In between pranks and needling, Troyer taught him policing. And for the last 33 years, the pair have served together.
Troyer said one of his favorite pranks was to tell a new officer to say “Hear ye, hear ye” before announcing “all rise” in city court. The judge would just look at the officer and say, “You must be new.”
Pranks and old war stories were everywhere at Troyer’s party. Sandy snuck up behind Troyer and smushed frosting from his retirement cake over his mouth and nose. Road Patrol Lt. David Guerrera yelled out “The cops are here!” making Adam Troyer and Sandy jump as they readied Troyer’s presents. The affection friends and coworkers hold for Troyer was evident all night, especially among those who came up through the ranks with him.
But even younger officers from other divisions in the department give Troyer a special place in their heart. “There isn’t a bad bone in his body,” said Officer Jesse Abbott, the head of the department’s Office of Community Policing, on Wednesday. Patrol Officer Kim Lawrence was recruiting him to help organize a send-off line for Troyer.
By arrangement, Adam Troyer took his father on one last tour around the city Wednesday afternoon and while all the officers that could formed two lines in the parking lot next to the station. Pulling into the lot, with lights on and popping the siren, Adam Troyer stopped in the middle of claps and cheers. Over the police radio, dispatch said goodbye to the city’s longest-serving cop and Troyer signed off for the last time.