Saying farewell to the life of the badge
LE MARS — After 31 years with the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department, Chief Deputy Craig Bartolozzi is retiring from law enforcement.
“Time’s right for me,” Bartolozzi explained. “Opportunities came around for me to take and it was time to move on. I started here in 1987. I worked in Remsen and Marcus and the Le Mars PD before coming here, so I’ve spent about 40 years in law enforcement.”
Many lives have impacted the deputy during those many years, particularly the officers he’s worked with.
“We’re more like family,” Bartolozzi said of the sheriff’s department. “Everybody around here has been around a long time. We’ve seen them through having children to their children graduating and getting married. You make lifelong friends that have your back, you trust them. And it is true: you have to trust people with your life out there. You want people that can do that.”
It’s not just his fellow officers that have made Bartolozzi’s time at the department special, it’s the people of Plymouth County who he’s served.
“I’ve always felt like I’ve always been respected in the community and in the county,” he stated. “The people of Plymouth County are easy to work with, and our board has always been good to us, treating us well and treating us fairly.”
And that relationship, Bartolozzi said, is something fairly unique to Plymouth County.
“I’ve been a part of the Sheriff’s Association for many years and have travelled the state and have gone to many counties who haven’t had that,” he shared. “They’re always butting heads and I just don’t think we’ve ever had that here in this county.”
A lot of change has happened in those many years.
“When I started, there were five deputies and a sheriff, a civil clerk, four dispatchers, no jailers and no cooks,” Bartolozzi explained. “Now, we’ve got 13 deputies, two civil clerk, six full-time dispatchers, 12 full-time jailers, six part-timers, and three cooks. It’s changed a lot where we used to have to write all the tickets out by hand or type them ourselves to what we do now where you can do anything off the computer, such as citations.”
While those citations might now be electronic, Bartolozzi had a key piece of advice to younger deputies.
“Not everybody needs to be arrested. Not everybody needs a ticket,” he offered. “You’ll get farther ahead if you just give warnings, talks and breaks, than to just think that everybody needs a ticket and needs to go to jail.”
That attitude, he said, led to several breaks in cases over the years.
“In my days of doing investigations, I got farther ahead by taking people home when you stop them and they might be borderline drunk and you’re not really sure,” he explained. “So you load them into the car, tell them to leave their car there and take them home. You’d be surprised how you get information back. It might be two months later or something like that, but they’d come back and say, ‘hey, I heard something on the street,’ all because I gave that person a ride home.”
“We’re losing a great deal of experience and hard work,” Sheriff Mike Van Otterloo said of his chief deputy. “We’re going to miss him.”
Bartolozzi’s job has entailed assisting in a wide variety of situations from thefts to traffic accidents, but one thing has remained the same.
“It’s nice to be able to help someone — that’s kinda your main drive,” he said. “When people are wronged, I try to make it right for them,” Bartolozzi said. “Most of the time, people here in Plymouth County are appreciative — they’ve always been good that way.”
One story of appreciation stood out to the deputy.
“I got a call to a home one time for a boy who was contemplating hurting himself,” he shared. “So I spent a lot of time with him and got him to go and get help. I hadn’t heard anything after that for years. I remember I went to Dairy Queen having lunch and this guy was staring at me. He comes over and introduced himself as the kid’s dad. He said ‘I just want to let you know he’s married, has a couple of kids and he’s doing really well.’”
Bartolozzi said he wouldn’t change a thing.
“It’s been a long journey, a good journey,” the deputy said. “I wouldn’t give it up for the world. If I had to start all over again, I’d do it again.”
On Tuesday, Sept. 25, Bartolozzi thanked the Plymouth County Board of Supervisors for his many years of working with them.
He will conclude his 31 years with the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department on Friday, Oct. 5.