Kewaunee Police Chief Salentine shares memories of the job as he retires
KEWAUNEE – Saturday is the first day in 32 years Frank Salentine won't need to put on a uniform and pin a badge to his chest to go to work.
Salentine is retiring as chief of the Kewaunee Police Department, a position he's held for the last 20 years of his tenure with the department. His last official day of employment is Jan. 3, but he's using paid time off to make Friday his final day on duty.
Salentine said he doesn't have a specific reason to retire at this time. He's just ready to do so, as he'll celebrate his 62nd birthday in December and has post-retirement plans on which he wants to work while he's able.
"I feel good about leaving right now," he said. "I gave it a lot of thought. I'm still relatively healthy. Hopefully I can do a few things down the road. I just decided it's time to do it."
Specifically, Salentine said he hopes to exercise his handyman skills to perform some remodeling projects and perhaps help one of his nine children, Steve, at the Salentine Repairs auto shop in Kewaunee.
Salentine said he's pleased with the work he performed while leading the department.
"I feel good about it," he said. "No regrets."
It wasn't necessarily Salentine's career goal to become a policeman when he was a youth. He grew up on a farm in Luxemburg and worked at Pauly Cheese Co. in Green Bay for 10 years after graduating from high school, until Pauly's parent company was bought by conglomerate Beatrice Foods, which closed the Green Bay plant.
"A buddy of mine had just started with the sheriff's department," Salentine said about that time in his life. "I got to thinking, maybe I can become a cop."
That happened in 1987, when he became a part-time officer with the Kewaunee department, taking classes and riding patrols with an experienced officer who supervised and mentored him. It's one of the things Salentine mentioned when asked how police work has changed during his time.
"It's funny — when I started, I came right off the street," Salentine said. "At the time, you didn't have to have law enforcement training. When I started part-time, I took these classes, two nights a week, four hours a night while I was working. Nowadays, you need at least 60 hours of college credit … Back then, you didn't have any formal training with a firearm. Training is much more intense (today)."
His mentor also was involved in what Salentine called his most memorable moment on the job — the first traffic ticket he ever wrote. He was in the driver's seat of a squad car with the older officer on the radar gun when a car that was obviously speeding whizzed by. They pulled over the car.
"As I'm writing the ticket out, (the older officer) goes to the lady (driver) and says, 'You know, this is this officer's first ticket,'" Salentine said. "And she says, 'Well! I'm honored!'" She laughed, he said.
Salentine became a full-time officer in 1991, then was named chief of police starting Jan. 1, 2000. He said the number of crimes the city has seen over the years has stayed fairly consistent, although the number of drug-related offenses and scams perpetrated online or over the phone has increased.
The biggest change Salentine's seen is paper work, "for me, anyway," he said with a chuckle, giving way to the use of computer technology, the internet and wireless services to perform police work.
"You had pen and paper, you would write citations sitting in the car," Salentine said with a chuckle. "In 1991 we got computers, and it just kept snowballing from there. Now you have computers, printers in the car, everything is sent electronically to the Department of Transportation or wherever it needs to go."
One thing Salentine said hasn't changed noticeably is the force's relationship with the community, which he thinks remained positive over the years.
"It seems people are less likely to tolerate certain things (when calling in possible crimes)," he said. "But, overall, I think the city is pretty good that way. … Overall, you treat people the same. You stay very even, try to be low-key. The nice part is, there's a big buy-in to the community."
Salentine said he remembers some sad events in his career, too — "a couple suicides, bad accidents, two drownings" — but he'll look back with fond memories on incidents like that aforementioned first ticket.
Or the time he was on patrol, stuck in a line of traffic behind a slow vehicle, when another car blasted past the whole line — including his squad car — in a no-passing zone.
"He looks over, and his eyes are popping because he sees my squad," Salentne said, laughing. "He gets up the road and pulls over before I get there, gets out of his car and says, 'Yeah, I'm the dumbest (expletive).'"
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Kewaunee Police Chief Salentine shares memories of the job as he retires