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In the best hands: Lt. Donoghue a wise choice to lead the Watertown Police Department

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Public safety has been a family business, of sorts, for Charles P. “Chip” Donoghue.

His father, Charles C. Donoghue, served as a member of the state police for 21 years; he retired in 1974 as a detective. And the younger Donoghue has been with the Watertown Police Department for an equal amount of time, earning the rank of lieutenant. His cousin, Lt. Joseph R. Donoghue, is the department’s public information officer.

Given his extensive background in law enforcement, Chip Donoghue’s selection this week as the city’s next police chief was an excellent choice. City Manager Sharon A. Addison appointed him to succeed Gary C. Comins in the position; he will begin his new job June 29.

Lt. Donoghue fondly invoked the memory of his father, who died at age 72 in 2004, during a news conference Monday to announce his appointment as police chief. While he savors the opportunity to lead the department, Lt. Donoghue said his father might have had a slightly different take on this new development.

“He’d be looking down and smiling, and I think he would think I’m a little nuts,” he quipped.

Lt. Donoghue noted that his cousin had mentored him early in his career with the department. The two Donoghues, in fact, once were partners in the detective division. Chip Donoghue joked about how difficult it may be to boss around a relative.

“I don’t think he’ll be taking orders anyway,” the incoming chief said — which prompted a reply of “Already have” from his future subordinate.

“The new chief was one of three candidates who took the Civil Service exam in March. Capt. Cheryl A. Clark and Lt. Michael J. Mullins also were up for the job. Lt. Donoghue received the highest score on the Civil Service exam with an 87,” according to a story Tuesday in the Watertown Daily Times. “Ms. Addison said she was impressed by Lt. Donoghue’s leadership during his lengthy career with the department. Over the years, he has served in many capacities.”

Lt. Donoghue graduated from Watertown High School in 1981. He received degrees in business management from Jefferson Community College in 1983 and from SUNY Plattsburgh three years later.

He then served as a member of the military police in the U.S. Army before earning an associate degree in criminal justice from JCC. He joined the Watertown Police Department in 1993.

While he said he won’t make changes within the department just for the sake of making changes, Lt. Donoghue has some decisions awaiting him when he becomes chief.

“With a series of retirements this year, the department has several vacancies he must fill. Three new police officers are finishing up training at the police academy in Binghamton, and five new recruits will enter in July, he said,” according to the Times story. “He also must be involved in negotiations with the police union, as the two sides will discuss expanding shifts from eight to 12 hours, he said. He also will be involved in a permanent solution regarding unarraigned suspects being held at the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building, Lt. Donoghue said.”

Meeting such challenges, however, is what leadership is all about. Through his distinguished career, Lt. Donoghue has demonstrated he has the skills to oversee this department and ensure the continued level of service that our local police officers provide.

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