RETIRING POLICE CAPT. Chris Stieber’s 31 1/2-year career as second in command for the Ripon Police Department was a fluke.
I don’t mean his time as an officer, or how he’s conducted himself was flawed — I think most would agree his tenure was exemplary on both counts.
What I mean is Chris stumbled upon this line of work. Literally.
“I was a psychology major in college for my first two years [at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh],” Chris said, but added he realized after a couple years that wouldn’t be his calling. “I was taking a different way to class, and passed a bulletin board, where I saw a flyer for a criminal justice major being started. It sounded like [something I might like].
“It was at that point I decided to become a police officer.”
It may have been a moment of serendipity for Chris that day, but it was to be a blessing for Ripon.
For parts of five decades, Chris gave his heart, his time and more than a few hearty laughs, all while making his adopted community a better place to live.
I SAY “ADOPTED” BECAUSE, once again, his long tenure in Ripon wouldn’t have happened if Chris followed through with his early intentions.
“I wanted to work for a big police department — a Milwaukee or Sheboygan,” he said.
Chris applied all over the state, but took his “first job” here in Ripon.
“I thought I would work for a year or two, and then move on,” he said.
One year turned into two ... which turned into two decades ... and then three ...
“I really enjoyed the community,” Chris said of why he stayed. “So did my wife. I enjoyed the job I was doing; the school system was fabulous. And for some reason they kept promoting me, and I really didn’t want to go anywhere else.”
It hasn’t all been good times on the force.
“One of the [most difficult] cases was the [Dawn] Moore homicide,” he said of the recent Ripon murder. “That was a difficult time — because of the brutality of the crime, because of the amount of the work put into it, the fact that a woman was killed and a child left behind with no parents in the end.”
If nothing else, Chris has taken solace in seeing those around him grow as individuals — both the officers and the Riponites he’s worked with.
“When you see the [residents] you work with develop into good human beings [it’s gratifying]. That’s the advantage of working 31 years — you get to see generations,” Chris said, adding he’s also seen that kind of growth among his own officers. “Watching officers develop from new, inexperienced officers or dispatchers, and see them grow in their jobs. To me, that’s the most positive thing as an administrator.
“Second of all, working with [police chief] Dave Lukoski, probably one of the finest police chiefs in the state. He’s really a compassionate man and treats everyone that way. If you look at the turnover rate [in our department] it bears that out.”
Chris also appreciates the sacrifices his wife made over the years.
“If not for my wife and family, I never would have gotten through 31 years on the job. But my wife, Sam, has been excellent — a great supporter. Almost saint-like.” ...
Read the full column in the Jan. 28, 2010 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.