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Bob Tirevold, Cyrus Police Chief: Keeping the community safe

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Bob Tirevold (right) and his wife, Katrina, at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska during Tirevold's deployment from 2002 - 2004. After 30 years in the Air Force, Tirevold returned to his hometown of Cyrus and now serves as the community's volunteer police chief.2 / 2

CYRUS, Minn. - Like many Americans, Cyrus-native Bob Tirevold was on his way to work when the World Trade Center was hit on Sept. 11, 2001. But unlike most people, Tirevold was working at U.S. Air Force Headquarters at the Pentagon and found his workplace under attack too.

"When the World Trade Center got hit we knew bad things were happening, and all the different operations centers were starting to stand up in the Pentagon," said Tirevold.

Going to catch up with his boss, Tirevold was just entering the Pentagon building when American Airlines Flight 77 hit at 9:37 a.m.

"We just got off the shuttle bus in D.C. and were walking in the building," Tirevold recalled. "It's such a huge building, we didn't feel anything, we didn't hear anything. ... The defense police came out and said 'Evacuate! Evacuate the building!' We went out and here's this huge plume of smoke coming up over our shoulder."

When Tirevold made his way to work at six the next morning, the wooden rafter roof on the top of the Pentagon was still on fire. Tirevold said could see firemen with hoses spraying the roof as it was burning. The whole building - down to the basement operations center where Tirevold was working with Air Force security forces across the world prepare for war - smelled like smoke.

"As you can imagine, it was pretty crazy," said Tirevold. "They were still recovering bodies out of the damaged section. They were still trying to determine who was missing ... and also preparing for war."

"It's better to just keep doing something"

Tirevold's career with the Air Force spanned 19 moves over 30 years and took him from the Phillipines to Saudi Arabia to the United Kingdom.

One of his last assignments at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska - "Probably our best assignment, maybe because we're Minnesotans" - helped Tirevold and his wife, Katrina, decide to move back to Minnesota in their retirement. They came back to Cyrus to be near family, Katrina's parents, former University of Minnesota, Morris professor Ernie Kemble and his wife, Cathy, a retired teacher at Morris Area Elementary School.

In his "retirement," Tirevold has remained engaged in the community. He became a volunteer firefighter with the Cyrus Fire Department and helped get the Cyrus First Responders going again. In addition to work as a defense contract consultant, Tirevold serves as a part-time deputy for the Pope County Sheriff's Department, part time police officer in Starbuck, and, in 2011, was hired by the City of Cyrus to serve as their part-time police chief.

"As you get to this stage in your life, you go, 'If I quit, I'll die,'" said Tirevold. "It's better to just keep doing something and stay active. You might as well keep doing something you enjoy."

"Four years and get back out"

Tirevold graduated from Cyrus High School in 1973, and lived in Cyrus until 1975. After graduation, Tirevold went to Willmar Community College where he received an Associate's degree in Law Enforcement.

"I was trying to get a job as a cop, but the end of the Vietnam War had a lot of people on the streets," said Tirevold. After driving truck for about 18 months, Tirevold decided he needed to go back to school for a bachelor's degree.

Two years later, Tirevold graduated from the University of Minnesota, Duluth with a BA in Criminology/Sociology. He was also commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force, after completing Reserve Officer Training Crops (ROTC) training as a student.

Part of the agreement with ROTC training is that graduates will serve four years in the Air Force before returning to civilian life. Tirevold's first assignment was as an operations officer with the 93th Security Police Squadron at Castle Air Force Base near Merced, Calif.

Tirevold and his family moved frequently throughout his career. After two years in California, they moved to the Philippines, then Hawaii, then Washington D.C. (four times), the United Kingdom, Texas (three times), Saudi Arabia and Alaska.

"I was going to do four years and get back out and come to Minnesota to be a cop, but they offered me another job and then another job and pretty soon here I am 30 years later with 19 moves to get back to Minnesota," said Tirevold.

"Back to the basics"

After reaching the 30-year mark in the Air Force, Tirevold reached the organization's mandatory retirement mark. His plan for life after the Air Force was to work as a consultant to defense contractors who like to "pick his brain" about Air Force security.

Although Tirevold does still do consulting work, he was able to return to his first career aspiration - community law enforcement - after connecting with former Pope County Sheriff Tom Larson. Hearing about Tirevold's background, Larson suggested he apply for a job as a part-time sheriff's deputy with Pope County.

Tirevold took the reciprocity test for a Minnesota Peace Officer's license and started working for Pope County in August 2009.

"It's been a lot of fun," says Tirevold. "It is kind of 'back to the basics' - as a deputy sheriff I do patrol and transport prisoners and do courthouse security and whatever else they need me to do. It's all part time."

Last summer, after a shift in law enforcement leadership in Pope County, the former Cyrus police chief resigned. Tirevold says he felt like he had more he could give back to Cyrus, and was hired as police chief in Cyrus in July 2011.

"First Responders are essential here"

Since moving home, Tirevold has also worked to help reinvigorate both the Cyrus Fire Department and Cyrus First Responders.

After hearing that the fire department was losing volunteers, Tirevold said he thought he could bring some of his disaster response experience to the department and help write grants or work on training for the volunteers.

"One of the things that popped up there was that Cyrus' First Responders had kind of fizzled," said Tirevold. "For a variety of reasons, it had just kind of started to fade away."

Tirevold put out fliers to recruit volunteers, helped organize a class though Glacial Ridge Ambulance Service and got the organization going again almost three years ago. Cyrus now has 10 trained and supplied first responders and a vehicle to take to calls.

"[First responders] are essential here," said Tirevold. "Glacial Ridge has an ambulance in Glenwood and Starbuck, and Stevens County has one in Morris. We're at least 10 minutes from an ambulance. If we can get there in five minutes, which is what usually happens ... we can assist with those essential life saving first few minutes."

The first responders get 10 to 12 calls a year, and work to raise money through pancake breakfasts and other fundraisers to support training and equipment costs.

"I'm glad that I can bring my experience to town"

The Cyrus that Tirevold now patrols is a different city from the one he grew up in - fewer people, fewer businesses, and a need for a positive police presence.

"It's kind of surprising to me because when I grew up there wasn't a cop," said Tirevold. "Now I come back to and they actually have a cop in this little town."

Tirevold works 30 hours a month in Cyrus, is on call for emergencies and can answer any law enforcement questions for local residents. The most common complaint Tirevold said he receives is about speeding along Highway 28 through Cyrus. A new squad car, recently purchased from Hancock, provides more visibility in the community.

"The basic thing is to provide a police presence here in town and respond to any particular calls that people have," said Tirevold. "Every small town has their crime issues. There are some drugs, there's some theft, there's some vandalism. ... My job is to provide that presence and help keep the peace in the town.

"I'm kind of sad that they need a policeman or feel the need for a policeman, but I'm glad that I can bring my experience to town."