Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Everyday Heroes #2

I'll admit I was kind of lazy about this.  Usually I write my articles in advance, but this one has kind of been sitting on the back burner for a while.  I kept hoping something would jump out at me on the websites I frequent, but as the deadline approached I figured I should finally get more proactive about finding an article about someone who's done good in their community.  That's actually a lot harder than you might think since most of the top stories in newspapers and such are about murders and robberies and so forth.

Anyway, after a little digging I came up with this article from the Huron Daily Tribune in Michigan's "Thumb" area.  It's about Detective Richard Koehler, who after almost 30 years is retiring from law enforcement.  In that time he's worked in a variety of roles from road patrol to undercover narcotics to the dive team to detective.  He's really been a jack of all trades for that area, which had to require a lot of talent and dedication.

So here's saluting another everyday hero!

Detective uncovers new career path

Tribune Staff Writer

HURON COUNTY — He’s been solving crime for years as a detective for the Huron County Sheriff’s Office.

Now Detective Richard Koehler will investigate retirement.

Friday afternoon, Koehler said good-bye to those he’s worked with throughout his law enforcement career which has spanned just more than 30 years at the sheriff’s office.

“I’ve worked for four different sheriff’s,” said Koehler who was hired May 1, 1982, to work full-time in the corrections department by then Sheriff Richard V. Stokan.

Koehler, a Pigeon-native, worked construction in southeast Michigan before returning to the Thumb-area where he began a career he’s been passionate about ever since.

“I worked in new home construction, and excavating. I got a builder’s license on the eve of the housing collapse of 1980. So things didn’t go so great for me then,” he said. “At that time, I wanted to get back living around here. I came back (to Huron County) and got a job in corrections working at the sheriff’s office. I’ve been here ever since.”

Working as a corrections officer was a stepping stone for Koehler, who chose to become a certified police officer, attending the police academy in 1985.

“I’ve known and worked with Richard Koehler ever since I started at the sheriff’s office in the early 80s,” said Huron County Sheriff Kelly J. Hanson, who attended the police academy with Koehler. “Richard loves being a part of things and wanting to be more involved back when he was a corrections officer. He was as full of energy then, as he is now.”

While still in corrections, Koehler offered up his brand new S-10 Blazer to be used for surveillance in a murder investigation, Hanson recalled about an incident in the 1980s.

“I used his vehicle, and the investigation took us into the Bay City-area. So I think he was pretty happy when I brought it back,” Hanson said. “He’s always been dedicated to the operation of the sheriff’s office.”

From 1986 until 1992, Koehler worked road patrol for the sheriff’s department.

“It was just a natural progression. At that time, road patrol candidates were picked from the corrections department and then you were sponsored by the department to go to the (police) academy,” he said. “I hated midnights. Back then (as a corrections officer) we worked a swing shift, on days, midnight’s and afternoons. It was an emotional, sleep deprived ordeal. On the afternoon shift, you never had a chance to see your family. But as time went on, things changed and we went to regular shifts.”

By the fall of 1995, the clean-cut road patrol deputy, began undercover work with Thumb Narcotics Unit (TNU), and he looked every bit the part— even growing his hair long.

“I worked undercover for two and a half years with TNU. I learned a lot there. I also worked on the citizens grand jury for a year and a half. I’ve done a lot different things in this job. And I can honestly say, that from the day I walked in the door here (at the sheriff’s department), until the day I leave — I have loved every bit of it,” he said. “I strive to do more because I love what I do.”

And doing more has included adding to his skill-set, getting his EMT license, becoming a member of the dive team and undergoing the training to become an accident reconstructionist.

“I still have my EMT license and maintain that, and I still ice dive. I have the best job in the world. I’m going to miss it dearly, but I’ll get over it,” he laughed. “I want to thank all the past and present county employees, law enforcement and elected officials I have worked with over the past 30 years. It has been a pleasure to work with true professionals and public servants both in Huron County, adjoining counties and across the state. Public service has been a passion of mine and Peggy’s (Koehler’s wife) over the years. We owe a lot to the people that we served. At times, I may not have been able to completely satisfy every victim in every case, but I tried my best.”

Koehler said he has plans to enjoy his retirement, travel and even work a bit.

“What I like about what I will be doing is that it’s 180 degrees away from what I’m doing now,” he said.

That work is in the form of an online marketing business called Market America, a business Koehler has only been able to dabble in for the past few years due to his work load as a detective.

“I can be in my office doing a (police) report thinking to myself in 30 minutes I will be going home for the day. Then 29 minutes later, something happens and I won’t see home for the next day. That is the way this job (as a detective) goes,” he said. “In a small department like this, you wear a lot of different hats. I’ve done diving, search and rescue, the airboat, accident reconstruction, and Mission Investigation with the Michigan Sheriff’s Association.”

When Koehler was finished undercover work with TNU, he was back on the road as a patrol deputy splitting his duties doing both road patrol and working in the detectives bureau.

“When they needed me on the road I went on the road, but the detectives bureau is where I wanted to be,” said Koehler, who was promoted to a full-time detective in 2001.

His hard work and dedication during his career and his role in raising the funds to allow the department to purchase an airboat were a few of the reasons he was named Officer of the Year for 2004.

“He’s always treated people in a very professional and decent manor,” said Undersheriff Ron Roberts who has worked as Koehler’s partner for most of his career. “He’s a pleasure to work with. He works very hard at what he does and he cares about the job he does.”

Koehler said he’s going to miss seeing the people he’s worked with every work day, but he said he’s ready to experience what life is like outside law enforcement.

“There are so many capable people that work for this department. It has been good to see how they have developed in their careers over the years. And I will enjoy watching how they continue to grow into what they do,” he said. “With the recent wave of retirees leaving here, I counted one time, there’s 260 years of service leaving this department. But the people who are staying have a lot of years of experience too. There’s a lot of brain power here. I’m going to miss all the guys here that I basically grew up with. I think that if I were the first one retiring it would be tougher. The other guys who have left before me survived — I will too.”

Koehler said he will also miss the day to day interaction with the courts, prosecutor’s office, other police agencies, the Department of Human Services, Huron Behavioral Health, hospitals, ambulance crews and fire departments.

“I’ve had the pleasure to speak to a lot of civic groups, work at fundraisers and volunteer with organizations in the community,” he said. “The friendships that I have established over the years have been priceless. If I have any regrets it is for not being able to help a victim of crime because of not having enough evidence, especially those victims that sometimes can’t speak for themselves, such as children.”

Bad Axe Police Chief David Rothe, said he’s worked with Koehler for about 11 years now and he’s going to be missed.

“Through his character he has developed a lot of friends, who often help out law enforcement,” Rothe said. “He’s a hell of an investigator and a big asset to this county.”

Some of the cases Rothe and Koehler have investigated together have been drug cases something Koehler said he’s going to miss doing.

“Drug cases are personal for me. That stuff destroys so many lives,” Koehler said. “When you think back on all the cases you’ve handled, you often think of the most recent or the high profile cases. But the saddest thing I’ve experienced in my career here was the death of Deputy Kelly Vermeersch, I was there at the crash scene. It still brings tears to my eyes.”

Koehler said when he looks back at his career he’s leaving the department the way he hoped he would.

“I set goals for myself. I wanted to have 30 years in and retire from law enforcement when I was 60. Even though I enjoy it, I want to see these other young guys have a chance at it. I’m not that selfish to think that I’m the only one that can do this job. I don’t think the place is going to crumble when I walk out the door. Everyone has their own way of doing things. I’m taking my cue from some of the guys who have retired. Ron Roberts and I have always been a team in how we handle things. We know it’s not one individual but a team effort.”

As for Roberts, he said he’s sad to see Koehler go.

“We’ve been together for most of our careers,” Roberts said. “I’m sorry he’s leaving but happy for his family that he’s leaving healthy and able to enjoy the next part of his life.”

Hanson said that Koehler, who is as well thought of and well-liked person in the department, will be missed.

“I’ve told him whether retired or not — he’s still a part of this organization for life,” Hanson said.

Koehler’s position as detective for the sheriff’s office will be filled by Deputy Daryl Ford.

“Daryl and I have been working together for some time. He’ll do a good job,” Koehler said. “We all have our own way of doing this job and now it’s his turn.”

Koehler said he’s seriously excited about retirement.

“I have a lot of things to do and they’re all good things,” he said. “This might be the end of this career, but just the start of another.”

If you want to nominate someone to be an Everyday Hero or you just spot an article that would fit, just go to the Contact Me page and pass along a link.  I know that smacks of effort, but come on, it's not that hard.  I did find out the Huffington Post does a feature kind of like this, so maybe I'll just steal stuff from them.

Tomorrow's review shows why The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood is so relevant in 2012...


  1. I hear a lot of people complain about the police; I never do. I've met many more good cops than bad cops, and while I'm not crazy about them giving me speeding tickets, they sure were helpful when Mr F ran away.

    This guy sounds like he's one of the best ones. Good for you for promoting him.

  2. My wife and son both work for our local police department so I come in close contact with many cops. I've found them to be a good lot, for the most part. A few are on power trips but all of them would no doubt risk their lives to protect yours.

  3. Good of you to highlight a great cop. There are good and bad apples as Briane says. The bad ones in my opinion, get far too much press.

    I'm looking forward to your comments on the Handmaid's Tale. My guess is there will be a bash on Republicans who are essentially trying to relegate the use of a woman's womb. It's a very relevant tale for today's society (at least as far as the Christian right goes).

    There I said it! People can egg me now!

  4. A true everyday hero PT. Thanks for highlighting his work.

  5. I'm glad to see a worthy person be praised. Thanks.



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