Capt. Robert Derksen folded his Cortland County Sheriff’s Office uniform for the last time Wednesday, preparing to wear a new uniform as the police chief for the Lanesborough Police Department in Massachusetts.
Derksen said good-bye to the colleagues he’s worked alongside for the past 21 years, retiring from the post he’s held since 2013.
“There’s so much I’ll miss,” Derksen said. “When you do law enforcement and you do the things we do, you become close with the people you work with. They saw me at my best and at my worst. Being here as long as I have, I’ve seen many people retire and go on to new things — that part’s hard — but we’ll still keep in touch.”
In order to collect retirement benefits, a New York officer must retire from law enforcement in the state, Derksen said.
“I have two kids that recently graduated high school that are going to college, and my plan is to use my retirement money to pay for my kids’ college education,” he said. “I wanted to continue to do what I love, and I was fortunate enough to find an opportunity to lead a police department.”
Derksen, who grew up near Albany, said he was drawn to the opening in Lanesborough because it would bring him closer to his family while allowing him to continue working in law enforcement without delaying his retirement benefits.
“I would have stayed forever, but with the current retirement plan there is no incentive past 20 years,” he said.
As captain of road patrol for Cortland County, Derksen oversaw the uniformed patrol and detective divisions, running many of the day-to-day operations of the law enforcement side of the Sheriff’s Office.
“My position as captain has definitely prepared me for the chief’s position,” he said.
“Any law enforcement officer could probably write a book about what we’ve seen and it would be on the bestseller’s list.”
Having seen everything from the amazing to the horrific, Derksen said that’s prepared him for anything this new job has to offer.
“All of those experiences have definitely shaped me, not only as a person, but as a police officer,” he said.
Derksen will succeed Chief Timothy Sorrell, who has retired after 34 years with the Lanesborough Police Department. Lt. Chad Burhans, head of investigations division, will be promoted to succeed Derksen.
“I’ve worked with Capt. Derksen for the last 14 years, starting as a road patrol officer to him being one of my first sergeants,” Burhans said. “He’s been great and very supportive. He’s never been afraid to do the work — he leads by example.”
“It’s always bittersweet to see an officer retire and move on, but it’s also a great opportunity for people to step up and show what they can do,” Burhans said.
Although Derksen is moving nearly 200 miles east, that doesn’t mean it’ll be the end to the friendships he made in Cortland.
“Capt. Derksen has always been there for his officers, always just a phone call away,” Burhans said. “I think him making that move is going to be a big change, but I wish him the best of luck. Lanesborough is getting a good police officer and a great guy. I see him doing good things for their department.”