Sgt. John Konkol is trading his gun and his badge for a vegetable garden.
The longtime officer, who is well known among the members for his work informing and teaching Waukesha residents about police practices and community policing measures, is retiring after 28 years working in law enforcement — 22 of which were with the
Konkol, 57, previously worked at the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department and Watertown Police Department. He leaves the department in the beginning of May, but officially retires July 2.
“I have seen most everything there is to see,” Konkol said. “It is time to get on with family. I have missed a lot of holidays in the beginning part of my career. … I’d like to put in a garden. I’ve never had a garden.”
Rewards of the Job
The most rewarding part of Konkol’s career has been the people he has worked with. But in the last seven years, he’s taken on new responsibilities as he has interacted with the citizens police academy members, the Explorers, reserve officers and other volunteers in the community. In the detective bureau and working with the community policing unit, Konkol said it’s been rewarding “seeing the good side of people.”
“As a patrol officer, you tend to see too much of the bad side of things. You are call orientated,” Konkol said. “In the early parts of the career, especially on night shift, you are not too much proactive, you are more reactive to stuff. Here you can get to know people, and that helps.”
Why Law Enforcement?
If you have been a longtime Milwaukee Brewers fan, you might have seen Konkol working security in the late 1970s and early 1980s at the old County Stadium. That’s when he first got his interest in police work.
“I dealt with a lot of unruly people in the bleachers,” he said. “We felt good when we got through without fights.”
Konkol was a supervisor for the security officers for six of his seven years. That’s where he saw Milwaukee law enforcement in action.
“I saw how effective the police were with the people,” said Konkol, who was a self-described shy guy who got his people skills while working at the stadium.
The Strange Things He’s Seen
When Konkol was asked what the strangest or weirdest thing he has seen on patrol, he remained quiet.
“I can’t tell you that one,” Konkol said with a chuckle.
While he remained quiet about some of the crazy calls he saw as a patrol officer, he shared a story about an icy afternoon on traffic patrol near the Moreland Boulevard hill between Pewaukee Road and .
The roads were so icy that the salt trucks were skidding down the hill as they tried to drive up the hill, he said.
“The weather changed drastically. The roads were dry and then it started snowing and it turned to glare ice,” Konkol said. “We had 30 to 40 accidents in a half hour or so — it was rush hour starting. We were only responding to personal injury accidents because there were so many of the other accidents.”
Konkol responded to a T-bone accident involving two cars at the bottom of the hill and had other officers put a flare line at the top of the hill to prevent other drivers from coming down the hill.
Sure enough, five cars drove through the flare line and skidded down the icy hill at 5 mph.
“Bang, bang, bang, it was a seven-car accident,” Konkol said. “It was one of the dumbest things I have seen people do. … In all my traffic days, that has to be the oddest thing.”
Those Pesky Soda Bets…
While calling attention to Konkol’s long-time leadership in the department, Police Chief Russell Jack shared with Waukesha Patch Konkol’s soda bet tradition. In good fun, sometimes the officers make small soda bets.
If a person loses, they’ll owe the other officer a Pepsi or a Coca-Cola. But when it comes to Konkol losing, the sergeant has his own different brand of soda he buys the winning officer.
“John, being frugal, his idea is a Wildwood soda — that is much cheaper than any other soda that was ever invented,” Jack said. “His statement is, ‘It is a soda.’ Clearly his idea is not quite what everybody else thinks.”
But beyond Konkol’s frugal nature in soda bets, Konkol “has been an absolute extreme asset to the Waukesha Police Department since he arrived here,” Jack said.
His leadership, knowledge and experience are among reasons he will be missed, the chief said. Konkol was transferred from patrol, where he spent most of his career, to the Criminal Investigation Division about seven years ago.
“John has been described as the glue that holds the detective bureau supervision together by his captain at that time,” Jack said. “To me that is a very strong statement about how important John has been back there. John makes sure everything gets done in the detective bureau.”