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After nearly 44 years, Thompson leaves 'fun and exciting job' with police department

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After nearly 44 years, Thompson leaves  'fun and exciting job' with police department

Lt. Rich Thompson, right, receives a plaque from Chief Steve Reeves in honor of his nearly 44-year career with the North Platte Police Department. Thompson’s last day on the job was July 20.

Lt. Rich Thompson feels his body is ready to rest. But his mind is telling him something else.

At least right now.

“I thought I would always look forward to (retirement) and couldn’t wait for it, but I’m actually been struggling with it a bit,” said Thompson, whose last official day on duty with the North Platte Police Department was July 20. “It’s just wrapping my head around the thought of not going to work.”

“But I have some health issues and my emotions aren’t what they used to be. My abilities aren’t what they used to be,” Thompson said in a phone interview. “So, it’s time. My body and all these things are telling me that it’s time. I should have been well-prepared for it, but I’m really not.”

Thompson, a 66-year-old North Platte native, said he has held a job since he was a teenager. He joined the department as a patrolman in November 1978 because he felt it would be a “fun and exciting job.”

“I guess it was the thrill of driving around fast in a cop car. That’s what might have appealed to a 27-year-old kid (at the time),” Thompson joked.

Thompson’s enthusiasm might have shifted to other priorities in the job over the years. But his feelings about law enforcement didn’t ever change in a career that lasted more than four decades and during which he was promoted to investigator, sergeant and finally lieutenant.

“I am going to leave here believing I did my job well and I will be a proud retired member of the police department,” Thompson said. “I think we have an excellent department and people here who can certainly fill my shoes and even go above and beyond what I was able to do. The department will be in very good hands.”

Thompson has held his current position in the criminal investigation department since 2010. He was initially promoted as a lieutenant in the patrol division in March 1998.

While he has been involved in a number of memorable cases and incidents over the decades, he said the bond he shared with his fellow officers is the main thing he will take from his career.

“It’s the people,” Thompson said. “I know people always say that, but (the department) really is a family.”

But it’s his immediate family he will focus on now. He credits his wife, Mardell, for, among other things, her patience and support over the 47 years of their marriage.

“You have to be very understanding to be married to a cop,” Thompson said.

Thompson has no real immediate plans for retirement. There will be some traveling and more frequent trips to Lincoln to visit the couple’s grandchildren.

He will need time to adjust to his new schedule.

“I’ve worked since I tasseled corn at 14. I’ve never been without a job,” he said. “I’m just a little apprehensive right now about what the future might bring. I don’t have the feelings of happiness that I thought I would have (about retiring).”

Thompson paused for a moment before he continued.

“But I think that’s coming.”

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