CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The death of a longtime local police chief has sent shock waves through the community that he served.
The Washington Co Sheriff tells News10ABC, Chief George Bell of the Cambridge-Greenwich Police Department passed away of a suspected heart attack on Sunday.
He was one of the main faces of Washington County law enforcement for nearly 40 years, but today the flags in both the communities he served are flying at half-staff.
“This is a great shock, a great shock,” said Mayor Carmen Bogel of Cambridge.
Mayor Bogel says his impact was immense
She recalls the last time she saw the chief, Saturday night in his cruiser leading the Cambridge basketball team home from victory at regionals
“He wasn’t just a police officer. He was a great man. You know, who truly cared,” Bogel said.
George Bell began his career in the Washington Co Sheriff’s Office in 1978. He was one of the first area deputies to work with a K9. Twenty years later, he would take on the job of chief at the Cambridge Police Department adding the village of Greenwhich when the offices were consolidated.
Bell investigated thousands of cases, some odd and quirky such as the So-called Ghost Girl, that turned out to be a local child caught on a motion sensitive field hunting camera.
But, other cases were much tougher as when a Greenwich boy died after he and a friend were trapped in a snow fort.
But, by far his biggest case, that of missing Jaliek Rainwalker. A case he will sadly never see resolved.
“Chief Bell worked so hard for 10 years to bring justice for Jaliek,” said Barbara Reeley, Jaliek’s adoptive grandmother.
Reeley says the chief never failed to take her calls.
“I told him he should have been a psychologist because he knew how to just kind of calm me down,” Reeley said.
The chief also always made sure to answer calls from members of the Media. We spoke a couple times every week. I truly enjoyed our chats and interviews and I will miss him so very much.
For those in law enforcement, George Bell epitomized the best in a small town police chief, coming away from tough situations with his humanity and sense of humor intact.
“When you have tragedy and you have things happen. You need somebody that can bring everybody back around and that’s something George had a knack for,” said Sheriff Jeffrey Murphy, Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
The Washington Co Sheriff’s office is assisting with daily operations at the police department, until a new chief is appointed.
But, in his office where he conducted most of our interviews, everything is as the Chief left it. For the time being, that’s how it will stay. A reminder to all that a great law man and an even better person was here.