Officer Leifeld will celebrate his retirement on June 5
By Tara Chapa
ZUMBROTA – After 23 years and four months of keeping the town of Zumbrota safe, Police Officer Gene Leifeld retired on May 9. The community is invited to celebrate his career on June 5 at the city hall from 3:30-5:30 p.m.
At the May 15 city council meeting, councilors expressed their thanks for Leifeld’s service. Tina Hostager described him as not only a “police” officer but a “peace” officer. Brad Drenckhahn said that “thank you” just did not seem appropriate enough to describe the city’s appreciation of Leifeld’s efforts.
Leifeld was born and raised in Hastings. Upon turning 18, he enlisted in both the Army and National Guard. He completed basic training at Fort Dix in Burlington County, New Jersey, and Advanced Individual Training (AIT) and training for the Signal Corp at Fort Gordon in Georgia. Although not called out to duty during the first or second Gulf War, Leifeld was on standby. He did spend some time in Guatemala with the Minnesota National Guard to assist with setting up roads and communication, and he was also involved with stateside assignments to help administer in disaster recovery where needed.
Leifeld began his police career as a reserve officer in Red Wing assisting with crowd control at parades and sporting events. He said he felt this was a great introduction to becoming a police officer. Because he enjoyed the aspect of community assistance so much, he decided to go to school at Inver Grove Community College in 1988 to complete a two-year program to become a state-tested and certified police officer. He came to Zumbrota in 1991.
His first arrest was for a DUI. When asked if he was nervous, he said it was simply part of the job and he was excited to begin his career. Through the years, when responding to calls Leifeld said he never became complacent. He said he never knew what to expect and always tried to be ready for anything. On a few occasions he had to draw his gun; however, he never had to shoot it. Leifeld considers domestic calls to be the highest risk for spinning in a downward cycle fast. Another high-risk situation is when assisting with Highway 52 calls or stops. If there is a car accident and Zumbrota Police are first on the scene, first aid will be rendered until an ambulance and either the County or State Patrol arrives. Those moments until backup arrives, Leifeld said, are when lives are at stake.
The nature of crime has changed some over the years, according to Leifeld. Theft and robbery seem to happen more via computers now. Victims of identity theft have had to be advised about what personal information they put online. It’s a change from the former advice on preventing thefts – suggesting people lock their doors or obtain a home alarm system. Crime is more mobile now and travels faster. In some ways social media can help officers and in other ways it’s a nightmare. The war on drugs hasn’t changed necessarily, Leifeld said, but it seems different. Drugs are more potent now, with synthetic forms available and drug trends changing constantly. Leifeld said he feels it is crime prevention within not only the school but the city, Safe & Sober programs, “Click it or Ticket” campaigns, as well as his work with the Chemical Health Initiative that have made deeper impacts within Zumbrota.
Leifeld said his main goal as an officer was to be involved in the lives of the community. He has no regrets and has enjoyed his time serving Zumbrota immensely. After spending many years juggling night and day shifts of patrolling, he looks forward to a normal routine where there is more time to spend on hobbies and with family. Although Zumbrota residents will not see him in uniform, they may catch him with a fishing pole or walking his dog Cocoa. Leifeld also plans to continue with his volunteer work with the Chemical Health Initiative, National Guard Enlist Association, Veterans’ Organizations, as well as the American Legion.