WILLIAMSON - Following a 20 year stent with the City of Williamson where he climbed the ladder and moved up through the ranks from a patrolman to the Chief of Police, David Rockel is turning in his badge and retiring to pursue another job opportunity, effective June 30th.
Rockel joined the Williamson Department in 1993, after relocating back to Mingo County from Fort Myers, Florida, where he was employed as an officer with the Lee County Sheriff's Department for 7 years. Prior to his employment there, Rockel spent close to 9 years with the City of Logan's Police Department, which provides him with a high level of knowledge and understanding of what serving the public truly means.
“I guess you could describe me as an old school cop,” remarked Chief Rockel during an interview with the Williamson Daily News on Friday, which was his last official day with the city.
“I'm a dying breed,” stated Rockel. “I was trained by some great men who taught me to carefully think things over and to contemplate and plan. Our younger officers are very reactionary; they tend to live for the moment at hand and don't take the time to think things through before making decisions. Our generations were raised very differently.”
“I am the latter of the older generation that grew up in the 60's and 70's that was trained by those growing up in the 50's. Once we're gone, you won't see that caliber of officer anymore.”
Rockel plans to try to instill these teachings and share his years of experience and knowledge with the officers who are employed with the Mingo County Sheriff's Department, where he will serve as the Chief Field Deputy under Sheriff Rosie Crum, beginning on Monday, July 1. Rockel has been employed on a part-time basis with the county through the Prosecuting Attorney Office for several months, holding the title of Drug Task Force Commander. Rockel worked hand in hand and developed a close working relationship as well as a friendship with the late-Sheriff, Eugene Crum.
“This has been a very emotional year for me,” said Rockel. “I lost two of my brothers within a couple of weeks of each other, and those losses were directly followed by the murder of Sheriff Crum and the death of one of our city patrolmen, Jeff Taylor. These deaths took a great toll on me, but I know that I am doing exactly what Eugene had intended and wanted me to do, and that it to be in a leadership role with the sheriff's department to continue the legacy that he had begun before his tragic death.”
While speaking about his 20 years with the city, Rockel was asked how he feels the police department has improved throughout his time in office, and what he would like to see happen with them in the future.
“Although they are down one officer, they remain a larger force than what the city experienced through the past ten years or so. They are certainly better trained; they have up to date and state-of-the-art equipment that includes rifles, shotguns, tasers and computers. Each officer also has a patrol car. I am confident they will continue to move forward and prosper under the leadership of the new police chief, whoever that may be,” stated Rockel. “Mayor McCormick and the city council members are currently reviewing applications from interested individuals and I have faith that they will make the right decision when they name a new chief.”
When asked what the most difficult task he had to address while employed as the chief, Rockel quickly replied that without a doubt, it was conducting the investigation into the death of his close friend and co-worker, Sheriff Eugene Crum.
“Anytime you investigate a homicide, it's a very hard task but you try to remain emotionally detached. When Eugene got shot, I had to be a police officer first and foremost. I couldn't grieve, I couldn't think with my heart nor could I take the time to just be his friend. I had a job to do, and I did just that. I didn't have a choice in the matter. It wasn't until many hours after the shooting when I was behind the closed door of my own home that I allowed myself to mourn his death. It cut me to the bone to lose him, but I know that he would want us to pick ourselves up and move forward to continue his fight against drugs and other crimes in Mingo County. He made a promise to clean up this county and was doing just that when he died. I plan to continue his fight and to carry on with Operation Zero Tolerance, the drug operation we started directly after the sheriff took office.”
“We've got a long way to go, but we will get it done, one day at a time and one step at a time. Eugene's attempts to reclaim this county will not be in vain. We will fight the fight.”
A few matters that will get the new MCSD Chief Deputy's immediate attention will be restructuring of the office, including procedural and scheduling issues and redistributing man power to adequately provide 24/7 coverage for the county that will assure that no officer is ever out there alone.
“I know that over the past few years, officers in the sheriff's department have come up against hardships in management and in finances. I'm optimistic that we can start anew and get everyone on board with a plan to move forward,” commented Rockel. “We are going to be dealing with schedule changes and I am considering implementing a four day, ten hours a day workweek with three days off. My goal is to overlap hours during the coverage times when we are seeing an influx of 911 calls.”
“These schedules will not be self-serving; they will be made with the counties best interest in mind. If an officer has a second job , he will need to make sure that job can be worked around his sheriff's department schedule. Being an officer has to be their first priority, a second job has to take a backseat to their primary employment. It will be their responsibility to work the secondary job around the sheriff's department scheduling – not vice-versa.”
Rockel commented that there are many good men employed as deputies, and he plans to get everyone up to speed with any training they may require.
Rockel asked to thank Mayor McCormick and the Williamson Council for allowing him the opportunity to serve as their police chief, having been the first officer to work up through the ranks and be named as chief in over 35 years. He commented that he made the mayor a promise that he will continue to work with the city police, aiding them however he can and plans to fulfill that obligation.
“The City of Williamson is a vital part of Mingo County. Not only that, it is my home. I want our town to prosper and I will continue my fight to see it break free of the chains of drugs and crime that has grown at an alarming rate,” said the former chief. “We will continue to push forward to make our communities a safe place to live, work, and raise our families.”
If you would like to speak with the new MCSD Chief Deputy, you may reach him by calling 304-235-0300 or you may visit him on the 1st floor of the county courthouse.