By Steve Robinson | July 21, 2019 - 10:40 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Normal Police Officer Greg Leopold has been a member of the force for 25 years. He began his career as a patrol officer in 1994. For 11 of his 25-year career, he was a patrolman. For 11 more years, from 1999-2010, he was assigned to the department Emergency Response Team, more commonly known as SWAT. He did those things before taking on a different kind of duty involving helping local youth.

Four and a half years ago, Leopold became NPD’s Community Service Officer. That means he visited schools giving talks to kids, and has overseen NPD’s week-long Summer Youth Program, held in June. The camp just wrapped up its 20th year this year. One of the activities the kids taking part in the program is participating in every year is to help set up for Relay For Life of McLean County. The kids get the job done with Leopold sometimes gently, sometimes sternly, making sure his charges show respect and lend a hand where needed.

But come the beginning of August, Leopold, 50, is retiring from the force, to pursue other interests including spending time with his wife, Sheila, and three children. He took over the job from Officer Amanda Street. “I put my name in for the job and they selected me to be the Community Service Officer,” he explained.

Dealing with the 50 kids each year who attend the Youth Program’s camp, ages 9-13, with a handful of NPD officers to assist, might not be classified using two certain words some might think – easy and fun, — but Leopold explained, “It’s an easy task, and it’s a fun task for me. I love doing it and there’s nothing I would trade for that.” He said not getting to spend a week with the kids will probably be the toughest thing about his retirement.

On the last day of the week-long camp session, “we like to make sure the kids are giving back to the community,” Leopold said about the time spent with the kids. During the prior four days of the camp, the kids are involved in team building activities.

Many of the kids come from different schools in the Twin Cities, and some from places in the county. But Leopold said in-town kids receive first crack at getting the chance to attend. Many of these kids, as a result, might not have met or been together before. So the goal for these kids are fun team-building activities.

In describing the make-up of the kids, Leopold said, “We take all kinds of kids with different socio-economic backgrounds. Kids that aren’t having any troubles in school who have never had contact with police officers, and we have them gain friendships with kids who aren’t at such an advantageous part of their life.”

But just as Leopold’s involvement with kids didn’t start when he put on a badge, it didn’t stop, either. For 12 years, he was head coach of Tri-Valley High School’s junior varsity football team and served as an assistant coach on the varsity squad specializing in working with both offensive and defensive linemen.

But knowing his retirement from the police force meant he could be devoting time to family, especially watching his daughter, who will be a TVHS junior, at her activities this year, he stepped away from that coaching role last year. His daughter will be on the Vikings’ girls’ golf team this year. “I’ve never seen a full event she’s been in, and I’m excited to follow her around the golf courses for the next couple years,” Leopold explained.

The last 4 ½ years were not his only experience dealing with kids, however. From 1997-1999, he served as a Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE Officer, visiting schools.

NPD Chief Rick Bleichner credited Leopold with taking on the Community Service Officer role that has what he considers “a pretty broad umbrella” of items, including community outreach through Neighborhood Watch, the Next Door app, and informing business owners regarding how to protect their property.

“Greg is certainly an excellent fit in that position,” Bleichner said. “That job touches so many areas within the community. Greg took this position and made it to fit his style.” Bleichner said NPD anticipates the officer who will take the reins from Leopold, NPD Detective Brad Park, will take it and stamp his own approach to the job when he takes over at the beginning of August. When the school year begins in earnest, I will introduce Park to you in a future column.

In the years he has had this job, Leopold said there have only been just a couple kids who have gone through the program who have had brushes with the law resulting in consequences. The rest of the time, having the kids see him and wave and say “hi” have been worth the experience at this job. Here is wishing Greg a great retirement with the thanks of the kids and others he has helped, even if that was not always brought to light to the public.

This entry was posted on Sunday, July 21st, 2019 at 10:40 pm and is filed under The Normalite. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Comments are closed.