Green River Star -

By Lillian Palmer
Staff Writer 

Officer hangs up badge after 30 years

 


After 30 years and two months, GRPD Sgt. Dan Friebel is putting aside his badge and officer uniform and donning his fishing pole and boating gear once again. Retirement has been a long time coming for the 57-year-old officer. His career in law enforcement started May 1, 1985, at age 27.

Before he started work as a police officer, he was working as a taxidermist at Fred’s Taxidermy. One of the customers, Sgt. Mike Keneberg told him he’d make a good cop. So, he went for it.

“I hadn’t thought of being a police officer before that, but apparently it worked out,” Friebel said. “I needed a job. I wanted to make a job that had a future, benefits and career.”

The journey from then to now has had its share of ups and downs, some good encounters and some bad. Through his encounters with people he’s tried to stress the consequences as learning experiences.

“I’ve told this to many, many people. If I had a magic wand, I’d fix everybody’s problem right now, starting with me, and then I would fix you, and then I would fix your problem, and then I would fix everybody’s, but there is no magic wand, and I live that,” Friebel said. “It’s not going to happen, you have to make it happen. You have to make the difference, make the right choices, change your ways, change your friends if need be. Use it as a learning experience.”

“If you get caught, you pay the price,” is Friebel’s philosophy. He’s known that ever since he was a kid. Growing up, he knew if he got in trouble with his parents, he would have a punishment with no relenting. That’s just the way it was. This, he says contributes to his hard knocks way of thinking. Tough love from his parents taught him discipline at an early age.

“If you did something wrong, fess up to it and take your lumps, or take what’s coming to you. Use it as a learning experience,” Friebel said. “I use that a lot with people, talking to them, especially younger people. ‘This isn’t the end of the world. Use it as a learning experience, that type of stuff, it all helps us grow and make better choices in the future.’”

Friebel’s own experiences from his younger years helps him connect with the youth he comes into contact with on some level.

He held a number of jobs before entering the law enforcement field, including ironworker, drywall hanger, butcher, plumber, and taxidermist. He also had his driver’s licence suspended at one point.

He’s received tickets and given tickets.

“I’d been around a while and I’d seen other people do things and I was no angel myself,” Friebel said. “And it’s hard to put judgement on somebody else but that’s what it is. Ya know, you’re saying, ‘Sorry. If I hadn’t got talked into this job a long time ago, I’d sat in the back seat of one of the patrol cars with handcuffs on myself.’ Oh yeah, no halo over this boy’s head.”

More times than not, he doesn’t always see a change in the people he comes in contact with, but the people he knows he’s made a positive impact on made it worth while.

“They come up to me and tell me, ‘Hey your advice was good. It changed my life.’ There’s a number of people here in town that I’ve influenced in a positive way, and it’s nice to see them,” Friebel said. “I see them with a family, doing the right thing. They’re happy, they’re happier. Either criminally or use of drugs and or alcohol, they’ve made a change.”

Friebel’s way of doing things and the way to treat people, he’s passed onto his peers and students in law enforcement.

“Probably his bigger thing he taught me was understanding the community and getting to know people. He was a very empathetic police officer. He handled situations in way that still respected them. They’re in a negative situation and looked at it positively because of the way Dan treated them,” GRPD Chief of Police Chris Steffen said.

Friebel was once Steffen’s field training officer many years ago.

“Step back and put yourself in their shoes. They made a mistake, broke the law, but they’re still human beings. You have to treat people well. I think that’s something Dan did really well. He’s very well liked in the community,” Steffen said. “It’s hard to quantify how much he’ll be missed.”

 

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