Last day in uniform

Assistant Chief Mike Freeman (at right) poses with Barron Police Chief Joe Vierkandt at a retirement event for Freeman on Monday, Jan. 4. Photo contributed

Mike Freeman is ready for a less confrontational day-to-day.

Freeman, Barron Police Department’s assistant chief, retired Monday, Jan. 4, after nearly 30 years of service.

Freeman said he’s taking on a new career, “something non-confrontational,” as a cleaner in a local hospital.

But it’s not that Freeman didn’t enjoy being a cop.

“The job is rewarding, though it can be tiring after so many years. But it’s a good profession. I’m glad I did. I hope I made a nice impact on the community,” he said.

He added, “Bringing justice to people is special, even if it’s as simple as a bike theft and returning that bike to its owner,” he said.

But, of course, dealing with people is still a tough job.

“People always want to put police in the middle of things, whether it’s child custody or property issues,” said Freeman. “Instead of handling things themselves, they want cops to be the bad guy.”

He added, “If people respect one another, love one another, that goes a long way in this world.”

Freeman has been with the Barron Police Department since 1991 when he started as a part-time officer. He moved into a full-time position in 1995, and has served four years as the department’s school liaison officer and as a patrol sergeant.

Freeman is a Rice Lake High School graduate who received an associate degree in law enforcement from Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire.

He said the job is just getting harder for the next generation of police.

“The academies aren’t as big as they used to be. It’s a job people just don’t want to do anymore,” said Freeman.

He said diminishing benefits and increasing hostility toward police among the general public are factors.

“That’s sickening. That’s tiring,” said Freeman.

He said anger toward police is misplaced, because cops are required to undergo significant training for a wide variety of situations.

“The United States cop is the most trained cop in the world,” said Freeman.

Police are mandated to do 24 hours of in service training annually, and there’s new case law every year.

“You have to adapt,” said Freeman. “There’s procedure change, change in what you can and can’t do.”

Technology has made the job easier in some ways, tougher in others.

“If a computer goes down, it’s tough to do your job,” said Freeman.

The Barron Police Department has had six officers since 1984, and according to Freeman, they’re busier than they’ve ever been.

“More traffic, more people, more issues,” he said.

Freeman said he’d like to see Barron PD staffing upped to seven officers, for the sake of safety.

“Even in a small town,” said Freeman.

“There was a murder the other day,” he said, referring to the shooting on Dec. 28. “One day you think it’s slow, then all of sudden you have to respond to something like that. You have to be ready.”

Dealing with tragedies is very much a part of the job.

“I’ve had my share of bad accidents and natural deaths. Notifying parents of deceased. That does wear on people,” said Freeman.

Then there are the calls that are just plain weird.

“Someone called 911 and when I got down there they asked me to co-sign something for them. Another time someone called about a 6-foot iguana walking in someone’s yard. And that was true!” said Freeman.

He helped corral the lizard and take it to the Humane Society.

With more free time now, Freeman said he is hoping to have more encounters with fish—he’s an avid trout fisherman in spring and fall.

Time with family will be important, too.

“I’ve worked my share of holidays, nights and weekends—that’s for sure,” said Freeman.

But he has no regrets.

Freeman concluded, “I’d like to thank everybody I’ve worked with. I’ve met a lot of good people over the years.”