Daryl Brennecke has been performing police business for 31 years. He is a quiet man to most, but his accomplishments are something to be recognized as he turns in his badge at New London Police Department this week.
Brennecke was raised near Fremont, and as a youth he learned a steady work ethic as he picked up spare change baling hay and doing odd jobs for farmers. By the time he was 16, he had a job at Hamilton’s Pickle Factory in the fifth ward. A graduate from New London High School at the age of 17, Brennecke enrolled in the Police Science program at Fox Valley Technical College. By his 19th birthday, a job was offered to him from the village of Coleman in Marinette County. He worked nights and weekends there for two years.
Then an opening in Peshtigo allowed him to work in a bigger community, and he jumped at the chance. He was sworn in one day, and the next day, received a call from Jack Algiers – New London police chief at that time – asking if he would like to be an officer in New London.
“Of course I wanted to be here,” recalls Brennecke. It was an awkward situation, but both police chiefs were amenable, and Brennecke was able to return to his home town. Brennecke said he would not want to be anywhere else and credits Algiers for getting him here.
“It was a challenge starting out,” says Brennecke. “It was not always comfortable when I had to enforce the law with my old classmates, especially when they knew I had my wild times like a lot of kids do,” he said.
Brennecke recalls being in the old City Hall for the first few years of duty. With a manual typewriter and a desk, reports were placed in file cabinets and cross referencing was unheard of. “I recall little index cards with perp names that we searched through to find our information,” he says.
Brennecke was instrumental in bringing technology to the New London police department, starting with stand alone work stations in the 1980s. Remember, they were cutting edge back then. “At least you could save your reports,” he said. He created many new forms to help workflow, too.
As computers progressed, Brennecke got involved as the liaison between New London and Outagamie County computer systems. He was able to convince the New London Police and Fire Commission to become a member of the system that now links five counties in the Fox Valley area to one database.
“If it weren’t for Daryl taking an interest in computers, we may not be so well off today,” comments Police Chief Jeff Schlueter. “He was the one who helped to push that union and kept things rolling. He was always active in the general maintenance and was the “go to guy” for many years when someone had computer problems.”
Technology has lead to a logging system for traffic stops that became mandatory statewide on Jan. 1.
“If Daryl hadn’t pushed to get the computers going in the squads when he did, we may have had to hire someone to type up our reports each night so we could keep up with these new regulations,” explained Schlueter. “As it is now, we have laptops in the squads and the officers can do their work while out on patrol. Half the departments in the state that don’t have the technology up to date will really be scrambling for money and resources to handle this. We’re in really good shape.”
“There was a long time there where departments didn’t share information with each other,” said Brennecke. “We were all guilty of hoarding our files. Once 9/11 happened that all changed. Now the sharing has opened up all sorts of ways to solve a crime. Unfortunately the thugs have access to the same computer knowledge as we do, so we are fighting an uphill battle.”
Brennecke said identity theft is now the nation’s highest crime and law enforcement’s biggest challenge.
“The police department has 16 officers on the force, and with technology, there is a bigger presence of our officers on the streets,” said Brennecke as he climbed into his squad. “I remember Dodge squads, Torino’s and Impalas that had the lights, siren and radio. That was it. Now have an actual office on wheels with information right at our fingertips. For every contact we make, we have the ability to enter a name and get a description, plate number or partial plate number, even nicknames and sounds like references. It is truly amazing to see how the technology is running things now.”
Besides the technology end, Brennecke says the officers in New London face the same challenges, dangers and unknowns as any other cop any other place on the planet. “We are not immune to crime here in New London,” he said. He’s seen his share of bar fights, homicides, domestic situations, drowning and sad endings involving families and children.
“There are officers here who were not born when I started police work,” said Brennecke with a smile. “They have such a command for technology and it’s great to see where that is going now.”
Brennecke said that over the years NLPD has always had the benefit of having a group of officers that work well and get along, who are willing to do the job to the best of their ability. Schlueter concurs. “People do get along here, that’s why they end up retiring here, because they stay so long.”
“I’m glad I worked under good police chiefs who were fair and always had our best interest in mind,” says Brennecke, who worked for Jack Algiers, Dave Neumann, Kevin Wilkinson and now for Jeff Schlueter.
One of the benefits of the job is early retirement. It makes up for all those nights, weekends, holidays and special events that were missed over 31 years. Brennecke plans to do some traveling and will most likely get out of the cold each year. But it’s clear that New London is his home, where he wants to be — even after retirement.