October 21, 2021

Todd Caufield says goodbye after 34 years

Cortland sheriff’s lieutenant retires from department

Don’t micromanage. That’s sheriff Lt. Todd Caufield’s advice for Sgt. Chad Burhans, who will take over Caufield’s position as head of the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office investigation division today.

“You supervise the man or woman, you don’t supervise the work,” Caufield said Friday as he retired, reciting what he had been told in supervisor school.

He said officers know how to do their work — it’s what they’re trained for, but the lieutenant has to be there to guide them or offer advice.

“If they need some guidance, you have to have trust in them that they will call you,” he said. “You have to be open to suggestions. You have to be receptive to your personnel, you have to be there for them.”

Caufield started as a patrol officer in 1986. He worked his way to corporal, then sergeant and from there the investigative division as a sergeant before taking over the division as lieutenant in December 2012.

Much has changed in Caufield’s 34 years:

The two-tone gray uniforms have been replaced by black ones.

Officers have more computers. “We had one typewriter, electric, in the back room for every officer to do their officers’ report on,” Caufield said.

The department had fewer officers.

The patrol division used to transport inmates, now corrections officers do that.

Officers had to share portable radios. But the department holds a lot deeper meaning to Caufield. He is the third generation in his family to work there — his grandfather was an undersheriff and his father worked there.

Parting thoughts

On tough cases:

“You’ll remember many cases,” he said. Some of the toughest for him were those involving children.

“Naturally it’s the most recent” case that has stuck with him, he said. That case involved the 2018 murder of 2-year-old Kassidy Dains in McGraw, the village where Caufield grew up and still lives.

On reviewing police policies:

“Everything, whether it’s law enforcement right down to any other type of profession or career, can always stand to have adjustment, change, review if you will. Are we doing our job to the fullest of what is expected of us?” he said. “There’s definitely room for review to see if change needs to be made.”

On recent protests:

Caufield acknowledged the recent peaceful Black Lives Matter protests in the county and said people have many ways of protesting, whether it’s a march or a letter to the editor.

“Everybody has that right, that’s why we live here,” he said.

He’s also the fourth generation of law enforcement in his family; his greatgrandfather worked in New York City in the early 1900s.

On top of all that, his brother Gene Caufield works in dispatch. But it’s unlikely Todd Caufield’s daughter, Melissa, will follow in her father’s footsteps. She’s a teacher in Syracuse.

Caufield, who recently turned 55, said it was time to retire and try some new things, including traveling more with his wife, Mary.

“There’s some changes I feel I want to do and some things I want to tackle before we all get too old that we can’t,” he said.

He’ll stay on part-time, coming whenever Helms needs him. But he knows the division will be in good hands.

“I have a good group of folks up here and I have faith and trust in them and I don’t have any reservations about stepping away knowing that they’re going to be able to step into this position and keep carrying the ball up the field,” Caufield said.

Burhans was promoted by Helms and has been with the department for 13 years. Burhans said Caufield, who he’s worked directly with for seven years, was a great supervisor.

“He’s been able to share his experience with each and every one of us to make us better,” Burhans said.

Helms said Caufield will be missed both as a friend and co-worker. He and Caufield have been at the department for almost the same amount of time and the knowledge and experience Caufield has amassed is enormous.

“Obviously it will be big shoes to fill but I’m sure Chad will do a good job,” Caufield said.