The Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) graduated its latest class of community service officers Friday. These officers provide a lot of help to MPD, which, like many police departments, is trying to do more with fewer resources.
Eric Penebacker is among this year’s 10 graduates of the program, and he will be 72-years-old next month. He says retirement is boring!
“That’s the last thing I want to do is sit in a rocking chair all day, so this keeps me busy,” Penebacker said. “I work out a lot, walk a lot, eat right, and sleep right."
His wife Mechel lovingly jokes that the other graduates could be his grandchildren.
“I’m extremely proud,” she said. “It’s a great accomplishment, especially at his age, to want to serve the city of Milwaukee and give something back.”
“Some of my classmates could really be my grandkids,” Penebacker said. “I think the youngest one is 23. It’s a big difference in age, but it’s okay. It was good to be with them. A good learning experience.”
Penebacker's career was in business at Miller Coors and Harley Davidson. He didn’t find his passion for community policing until recently. He looks at his age and experience as an asset.
“I’ve seen a lot and care about my community, and I’m just really concerned with the citizens of Milwaukee,” Penebacker said.
That is exactly what Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman says is crucial for the job.
“We serve people,” Chief Norman said. “I see you community service officers as no different than my sworn personnel. We are a team working for one goal – the safety of our city.”
MPD’s community service officers go through 240 hours of training. They do a wide range of tasks, like helping with investigations, taking calls, writing police reports, responding to non-felony/non-violent situations, processing fingerprints, and helping with traffic enforcement.
Penebacker starts at Milwaukee Police District One this Monday.
“I believe I’ll be working with forensics, for the most part,” Eric said. “Gathering info in terms of crime, and processing evidence."
It’s a job he’ll give his all to.
“The older you get, you have to find your niche in life, and I’m lucky enough to have just found my niche,” Eric said.