Name: Robert F. Kluntz, Jr.
Hometown: Cleveland, a small town in southern Minnesota about 6 miles east of St. Peter
Education: I went to college at Mankato State University
Start date with Elk River Police Department: Nov. 26, 1990
Positions held and when at the ERPD? I was hired as a patrol officer in 1990. I taught D.A.R.E. for a few years in the mid-1990s, then was a juvenile investigator for a number of years. I was promoted to my current position of police captain in 2005.
What was the department like when you joined? I was number 14 of the officers when I was hired, we currently have 34 sworn officers. I was hired by then Chief Tom Zerwas, who I was proud to work for until his retirement in 2003. I was also pleased to work with Chief Jeff Beahen, who promoted me to my current position. I was also pleased to work alongside both Brad Rolfe and Ron Nierenhausen, who both became chief in 2010 and 2014 respectively.
When and why did you decide to pursue a career in law enforcement? In high school I took an aptitude test to help pick a career. Several of the positions the test recommended had to do with law enforcement.
When and how did you know you picked the right profession or could see yourself serving in Elk River for a long time? Honestly, I didn’t think I would remain here for my entire career. I came here, because I liked the community and saw a lot of potential for growth. I have stayed because I like the people, in particular my co-workers.
What has changed over time in law enforcement as it relates to working in the Elk River community? There are those things that are obvious, which have changed with most all professions; technology would be number one on the list. When I started you communicated via the radio, we didn’t have cellphones in the squad car, nor did we have computers. I think social media has been something that has really changed our profession too … for good and bad. It’s a good way to get information out to the public quickly and efficiently, but it also can be used to distribute misinformation just as easily.
Would you go into law enforcement today if you were in high school and surveying your career options? Why or why not? Due to the current climate, this profession isn’t the most attractive to young people. For most of us that have been in this career for a number of years, we’ve seen times when the police have been revered and times when we have been vilified. I think if I was my younger self today, I would need someone to point out to me that there are better times to come.
What do you admire about the young officers of today? Many things. I admire their ability to leverage technology to their advantage. I think the new generation of officers are compassionate and have a commitment to serve, but are also better at balancing their personal and work lives than officers of my generation.
What advice do you have for new recruits and officers who come in with varying levels of experience to help them find success as a police officer and member of the Elk River Police Department? I would tell them that there is no way I would have completed 30 years in this profession without a lot of help from others. I had many good mentors who guided me through my career. I would tell them to seek out others in their field who can help mentor them. I would also tell them to find the right spouse/significant other to be with them through their career. This is a job where you take a lot of things home with you, so the person you go home to has to understand that and be willing to accept that your job will affect your home life.
What does it mean to you to reach and be recognized your 30th anniversary? I appreciate being recognized, but again, I don’t see it as an accomplishment. I see it as a milestone; it does make a person nostalgic, thinking of the people who have helped you get to this point in your career.