Steamboat Springs Assistant Police Chief Art Fiebing is trading his badge and gun in for a hammer and surfboard.
Fiebing will be retiring from his position June 2 after eight years as assistant police chief. He plans to move to Orange County, Calif.
"I feel it is time for me to get out of law enforcement. It has been a great job because there is just a fantastic group of people to work with," Fiebing said. "But this type of business, it just beats you up, you see a lot of bad things, a lot of negative stuff, and you get tired."
Fiebing and his family plan to live in his childhood home, on an orange grove where his mother resides.
Part of the decision to move to California, Fiebing said, was to help take care of his aging mother and to escape Colorado's cold winters.
No one has been chosen to replace Fiebing. The police department might eliminate the assistant police chief position and add a position as captain of the patrol division, Fiebing said.
Once retired, Fiebing's first piece of business will be to do nothing. If that gets old, he plans to buy a fixer-upper in a historic section of Orange County to renovate and sell it. It wouldn't be the first such home for him; for nine years, he worked on renovating his Steamboat house, which once belonged to author and historian John Rolfe Burroughs.
He also foresees time to ride his Harley and to surf.
Fiebing came to Steamboat 27 years ago in a VW camper with a $100 and no law enforcement aspirations. His first job was working as a janitor at the Butcher Shop. For seven years, Fiebing was on ski patrol and worked construction in the summer.
During a slow building season in 1983 and 1984, a neighbor who was the undersheriff at the time encouraged Fiebing to apply for a job at the Routt County Jail.
Fiebing worked at the sheriff's office and eventually worked his way to undersheriff. In 1994, he moved to the Steamboat Springs Police Department, where in 1997 he was promoted to assistant chief.
Fiebing sees his biggest achievement as encouraging and hiring police officers who are courteous and part of the community. He put into place a field training and evaluation program that allows officers who are fresh out of the academy to go through an eight-week training program at the police department.
Fiebing also developed a firearms training program during his time in Routt County. A program for hiring and promoting officers also was created during Fiebing's tenure.
"It seems like I spent my whole career trying to make law enforcement more professional, to get good people the community can relate to in this business as opposed to gun-toting tough guys," he said.
Another contribution Fiebing made was helping to put a domestic violence policy in place. During Fiebing's first three weeks as a sheriff's deputy, he responded to a call after a husband had severely beaten his wife and daughter, and the woman had fired a gun at the man 16 times.
At that time, Fiebing said, no laws or policies were in place that would allow law enforcement to arrest the man with the wife's consent.
"They hardly ever got arrested. (Domestic violence) was really considered a family problem, not a law enforcement problem. You just separated the parties. It was horrible to watch," Fiebing said.
In 1986, Fiebing worked with Advocates Against Battering and Abuse and the District Attorney's Office to create a countywide policy allowing law enforcement to arrest perpetrators with probable cause and without the victim signing a written complaint.
In his eight years as assistant police chief, Fiebing's department has worked on countless cases, but he said the most memorable was one in which police arrested a woman who was living in a dirty hotel room with four children ages 6 months to 8 years old. The police department worked with social services to place the children in homes. All were adopted and are doing well.
"With all the DUIs, burglaries and thefts, it always feels good to put bad guys in jail, but the one with the kids made me feel the best," Fiebing said. "I really think the situation gave them a real chance to make it in life."
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