It has been a great career, 29 years in Law Enforcement. At the end of this month, January 31st to be exact, Sergeant Rob Kniefel will be hanging up his cuffs, and retiring from the Owatonna Police Department. Sgt. Kniefel was a guest on our Talk of the Town program on Friday and talked about his career in law enforcement.

Sgt. Kniefel, after he graduated from college, and did his training in Hibbing, worked for the Owatonna PD on a part-time basis, in 1991. During his tenure, he got engaged and wanted to work full-time, applying for, and getting hired, to work for the Freeborn County Sheriff's Office in 1992, under Sheriff Don Nolander. As Kniefel worked for Freeborn County, life happened around him as well. He started to help care for his mother, who lived in Owatonna, and felt that he should work here for the convenience of being in the same town, as well as live here again. So he applied for an open position with the Owatonna PD, as he puts it, "for completely selfish reasons." He wanted to be closer to his mother, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, to be able to help her out, and allow her to stay in her own home as long as possible. Of course, he also grew up in Owatonna, so living here again was a great draw for him to come back.

In 1997 Kniefel was hired full-time in Owatonna with the PD here, as a patrol officer, which is where all officers hired start out. In 2000 there was a spot in the detective bureau open, for which he applied, and was granted. He worked in the detective bureau for 8 years. There were only 2 detectives in the department, one for paper crimes, the other for crimes against a person. Kniefel was the detective in charge of the crimes against a person, which included any crimes you could think of, that are against a person. He worked with Child Protective Services, Adult Protective Services, assaults, and the like. Very taxing, but he feels it was very personally rewarding and that it is something that changed him forever.

In 2008 a Sergeant opening was available, and he had gone through the testing in late 2007, and was promoted into the Sgt. position in early 2008, where he has been for the past 12 years. He was the road supervisor, and has not looked back. His position is responsible for the shift as they are working, as well as promoting the mission and goals of the OPD. Under the direction of the Chief and Captains, they are out there to answer calls, supervise the patrol officers, and to foster those relationships and community engagement, which can include meeting with citizens to discuss policy and procedures, or just to say hi, how are you today. If there is a concern with an officer, or a formal complaint, the sergeant is the one who handles that at the start.

Sgt. Kniefel also took over coordinating the Police Reserve Program here in Owatonna, in 2012, it's a voluntary program, where you do not have to have a college degree, or Police Academy training, for anyone from 18-88 years of age. They are given a uniform, some training from the PD, including defensive tactics, and utilized for events where there just aren't enough officers to work. This would include parades, street dances, or other community events, where traffic control, or an extra set of eyes and ears are needed. They could do house checks if someone is on vacation, or light security where the presence of a licensed police officer is not necessary, but, some security is.

Onto his retirement, Sgt. Kniefel had 10 scheduled shifts left on Friday, January 17th. His retirement date is January 31st, which is 29 years of working in Law Enforcement. He has mixed feelings about leaving the department. He will miss some aspects of the job, and the people, a lot. As he said, "it's not just a career, it's a complete lifestyle." He will not miss the stress of the position. He also recognizes that he cannot physically do what he was doing in his earlier years, even though he is not an old man by any standards now, and he was told that he would know when it was time. He told us that "it's time." "It's time to pass the torch on now to somebody younger, probably a little more educated in different ways than I was..."

So much of the technology has changed, body-worn cameras, cell-phones, dash-cams, all for the better. Back when he started, he had to ask permission to have a cell phone in his squad, which he purchased himself, now, they all have cell phones, computers, cameras, and even more technology than a person realizes as part of their daily routine, part of being able to perform their job duties.

As for what Sgt. Kniefel is planning to do with his time now that he is retiring? He plans to take some time deciding what he wants to do with this next phase of his life. He will be spending time with his family, and spending some of that time on the lake. He said he has a cabin up North, and that he is going to enjoy this time without the daily stress that comes from serving the community for as long as he has.

Sgt. Rob Kniefel offered up these final thoughts: "Owatonna is really a wonderful community, it always has been. It has been my honor to serve and give back to the community that raised me. By all means, as police officers we hear a lot of negative things every day, if you have any interactions...if you have interactions that are positive with the police department, or if you are satisfied with a police officer, let us know. That means the world to us, because, we remember the negatives, and the positives are very few and far between. Everyone is doing a fantastic job, but, it helps to be reminded..."

Congratulations to Sergeant Rob Kniefel on your retirement.

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