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Its retirement day!

Four men and 130 years of law enforcement experience retire from the sheriffs office

IOWA CITY The Thin Blue Line (which represents the men and women of law enforcement standing between the civil society and chaos) is thinner today in Johnson County. Four longtime members of the Johnson County Sheriffs Office (JCSO): Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek, Major (Chief Deputy) Steve Dolezal, Captain Gary Kramer and Lieutenant Brian Adolph, all retired as of Thursday, Dec. 31. Combined, the men add up to over 130 years of law enforcement experience.
In honor of their years of service to Johnson County, the Economist and Leader reached out via email to all four men with an opportunity to reflect on their careers. Sheriff Pulkrabek and Maj. Dolezal responded, and their comments are presented below as received.
Pulkrabek joined the JCSO in July of 1985 for essentially 35-1/2 years. He announced in 2019 that he would be retiring as sheriff and launched an unsuccessful campaign to oust Republican Bobby Kauffman from his seat in the Iowa House as a Democratic challenger this past November.
Dolezal started with the JCSO in 1986 but left in 2001. He returned to the sheriffs office in 2005 for a total of 31 years.
How did you end up in a career in law enforcement:
Pulkrabek It was where I wanted to end up ever since I was a little kid. I remember being young in Waterloo in the back seat of my parents car. I saw a group of Waterloo police officers come out of a bar in uniform, but wearing helmets. I said then that was what I was going to do.
Dolezal Growing up in Iowa City, my neighbor was an Iowa City police officer. I heard many stories and found the job fascinating. Every day brought something different. From then on, I set my goal to be in law enforcement. Interestingly, some of those stories growing up were about the period of civil unrest in Iowa City. I end my career with Iowa City going through civil unrest.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a law enforcement officer?
Pulkrabek All the different times that I was actually able to help save people or assist them in life and death situations, such as car crashes.
Dolezal A few things come to mind. Serving as the chief deputy for the last 16 years. I would argue that its the best position at the sheriffs office. I was able to make high-level decisions, while not having to be a politician. Another would be my fellow coworkers in law enforcement, fire, EMS and dispatch who I consider to all be true civil servants. We are lucky to live in a community with so many great public servants.
What changes have you seen, in law enforcement in general, or how it is delivered in Johnson County, over your career?
Pulkrabek Enormous changes in technology and equipment. When I first started each house was not even marked with an E-911 address sign, so at times it was very difficult to find the places we were going to. The old (emergency) light bars and cars were set up with exposed wires on the light control switches. Now all lights are brighter and LED. Computers, cameras and body cams are in all the cars. (We) went away from revolvers. Less paper when it comes to booking inmates. Electronic fingerprint scanners rather than rolling the fingers on print cards with messy ink. Much, much more training, and tons of specialized training.
Dolezal One of the biggest changes is how we deal with those that are in crisis mode or having mental issues. The political will to fund the Crisis Intervention Training for law enforcement and other EMS providers, leading to better and safer outcomes for the public and officers. Then came funding for the GuideLink Center (Access Center). This will provide an option outside of jail and the emergency rooms. I cant wait to see it operational in 2021.
Any future plans?
Pulkrabek I plan to travel with my wife, work on my personal fitness, ride my bicycle and motorcycle. Maybe dust off my fishing poles and work on some other hobbies that I have not done for a very long time.
Dolezal Nothing besides work on my golf game. If I cant make the PGA tour I will need a job. Do you know of anyone hiring?
Anything else you want to add on a personal note?
Pulkrabek It has been a great pleasure serving as sheriff of Johnson County. I never imagined I would end up in that position when I first started. I have had an amazing number of successes in office, but I owe it all to the people I work with. I have been surrounded by smart, dedicated and caring people throughout my 16 years as sheriff. Many important people retired since I took office, and more and more dedicated people picked up where they left off and dedicated their careers to the citizens of Johnson County. I know I am leaving an office in better shape than I inherited, and I have no doubt that sheriff-elect Brad Kunkel will improve the office from when he inherits it.
Dolezal It truly was an honor to serve the citizens of Johnson County. It was an honor to work with so many great people throughout my career. I really appreciate the support I had from my family. Law Enforcement has been a rewarding career. If Lou Gehrig was the luckiest man on the face of the Earth I must be the second-luckiest man on the face of the Earth.
The Johnson County Board of Supervisors recognized the four men during its formal meeting on Thursday, Dec. 17. Board Chairman Rod Sullivan, when asked about the officers, replied These are four outstanding officers who have served Johnson County long and well. We will miss their experience, but we wish them well in retirement. Personally, I respect the hell out of these guys, and I am really going to miss them. I wish we werent under COVID restrictions, because I would like to see them off properly.