Longtime auxiliary officer set to retire

Published 10:27 pm Friday, January 24, 2020

Back when Sgt. Don Thompson joined the Suffolk Police Auxiliary in March 1989, he was fascinated with police work, recalling TV shows such as “Columbo” and “Perry Mason.”

At the time, he noted, state code allowed localities to train auxiliary officers however they wanted, with the one requirement they had to be state certified on the firing range.

After a brief time riding along with an officer, Thompson was given the keys to a patrol car and was on his way.

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He stayed with the program through its restructuring in 1997, and later in 2006 when auxiliary officers were required to go through the Police Academy, he said, it dropped its ranks by half from 18 to nine. Now, the program has two tiers, one with sworn and armed volunteers that have completed a 10-month regional academy and a 140-hour field training program, and another that provides training for people to be traffic assistance officers, which is a non-sworn and non-armed volunteer position.

Suffolk Police Chief Thomas Bennett noted Thompson’s commitment to the auxiliary.

“Some people would naturally get discouraged because of all the additional requirements on them,” Bennett said. “But the ones who stay are real committed and want to be an officer.”

But now, at 68, Thompson is ready to retire from the Suffolk Police Auxiliary with his health intact. Thompson’s retirement ceremony is Thursday, with his last day Friday.

“It’s just my age,” Thompson said. “I’m just not that young man anymore. I’m 68 years old now, and I hate to admit it, but at 68, I sometimes think I’m 30, but when you get out of that police car and you’re chasing somebody down, you realize you’re not 30 anymore.

“I just decided I wanted to retire in good health and in good standing with the police department. At some point, you realize it’s time.”

He said he’s gotten to experience the many positive aspects of being a police officer, such as the city’s Christmas parade and helping the elderly, but he’s also had some horrible images that have stayed with him, too, including when a 15-year old boy who was shot and killed during a robbery.

Some things like that, he said, never get erased from his mind.

While he also noted the various arrests, “tussels and fights,” he will miss the camaraderie and tight bond he had with other officers.

“In my personal dealings with my fellow officers,” Thompson said, “it’s the camaraderie where you’re respected once they realize you’re there to help (and) you have that training that they can trust you, then you become part of that team. … It’s a bond that never goes away.”

He said it was easy for him to go above and beyond the 16 hours per month minimum required of a police auxiliary officer. Besides liking the work, there were also instances where he would be out on a call that would extend his time due to the nature of the incident.

Bennett said he has been grateful for Thompson’s dedication.

“He’s a very solid, dependable guy,” Bennett said. “He has all the attributes that a good officer has. … I sincerely appreciate everything he’s done for the department and the city.”

Thompson said he will continue to work as a consultant for a little while longer, but has been finding difficulty in letting go being an auxiliary officer.

“It’s a little bit hard to let it go, because it’s been such a big part of my life,” Thompson said. “It’s been a real passion, a strong passion, but I will say that it has made me a better person to not overjudge people because of their dilemmas in life. There’s a lot of good people who are just on hard times, and so I think it has helped me become a better man as far as not being overly critical of people just because they’re in a bad way. I just tried … to show compassion and show respect even in the worst of times.”