“I’ve never wanted to do anything else besides being a police officer,” Schreifels said. “The whole idea of a nice pressed uniform and helping people and the whole good versus the bad guy type thing.”
Schreifels has worn the dark blue police uniform and badge for the Brainerd Police Department since the fall of 1996, with five years prior wearing the uniform for the Breezy Point Police Department.
Now, after almost 30 years of a fulfilling law enforcement career, Schreifels, who will be 50 in August, will work his last shift Aug. 6 as a Brainerd police officer. The Brainerd man not only will be missed by the community but by students at Brainerd High School, where he was the school’s resource officer since 2008.
Schreifels has touched thousands of students’ lives over the years at BHS. He, in turn, said it was the students who touched his life..
Schreifels, who grew up in Sauk Rapids, joined the Law Enforcement Exploring program in Sherburne County and also worked for the boat and water division through the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office. He then attended Brainerd Community College, now known as Central Lakes College, earning his associates degree in criminal justice. He earned his license to be a full time peace officer in 1991. He was hired by the Breezy Point Police Department as a part-time police officer and later became full-time.
Schreifels said an opportunity arose for him to be on the NET 6 Drug Task Force, the area’s previous narcotics enforcement team. Former Brainerd Police Chief Frank Ball was the director of the task force at the time. He stayed on the team for two years and met his wife, Julie, who was a teacher in Pequot Lakes.
It was at this time he knew he wanted to stay in the Brainerd lakes area. An opening at the Brainerd Police Department was available and he was hired in the fall of 1996. Current Police Chief Corky McQuiston was hired in the spring of 1996.
“Troy started with the police department six months after I did … but I got to know him when I was a deputy and he worked for the Breezy Point Police Department,” McQuiston stated in an email. “I’ve always admired Troy for the amount of volunteering he does, but more so for dignity and respect that he shows to all. Troy’s generosity, compassion, and integrity are second to none.”
Schreifels started as a patrol officer and, as the years went on, he became a field training officer. He was an instructor for firearms, defensive tactics and chemical agents and became a patrol sergeant in 2007. In 2008, he took the position as the school resource officer, the position he has held since.
“At that point, I already had 14 years as a police officer total and even though I really appreciated working shifts … I was looking for another opportunity to do something different,” Schreifels said.
“At the time, when the school resource officer position came up, I was a little hesitant. … You’re dealing with ninth through 12th graders, about 2,000 kids and their parents, and to be honest with you, I really didn’t know how (things would work out). I talked to a bunch of parent groups and civic groups and classroom teachers and all that stuff and I tell them the same story all the time — I didn’t know what to expect. … But it turns out, I’ll be very honest with you in the most sincere and genuine way possible, this was the best decision I’ve ever made. One of the best decisions I’ve made personally and for sure, professionally.”
Schreifels said his time as the school resource officer changed his perspective on things. When people ask him how he has impacted these students’ lives, he said the question is more how they’ve impacted his life.
“When people say the youth are our future, that is very true,” Schreifels said. “I want to make their first contact with a police officer a positive one, even if it comes from something they did wrong.
“I was given an opportunity to interact with these kids on a full time basis and had the luxury of getting to know these kids and their parents. When I say this was one of the best decisions I made it is not only because it gave me a life to spend more time with my wife and my children. … I believe this position also helped me become a better father. And so when I dealt with other people’s kids, it was a two-fold approach as a police officer, but also as a father because I kind of get it, you know.”
Schreifels said the first couple of years were challenging, but as time progressed he started to see the rewards in dealing with the youth. The rewards of helping the BHS students, he said, far outweighed the challenges on the job.
Through the years, he provided his input to school administrators regarding youth programs, with the concept of working to be proactive instead of reactive to student issues.
“Relationships are the most important thing,” Schreifels said of being the school resource officer. “When I walked into that school my first year with 2,000 kids, it was like a small city,” Schreifels said. “This is not my place, this is not my home, I felt like I was like a guest and that I need to earn the right to be there. That’s what I believed in. I believed in establishing some of those relationships with the staff and administration but also with the kids. I wanted to be more proactive with the kids.”
And then it happened.
About 10 years ago, a woman from the Minnesota Department of Education came to give a talk to BHS staff about interacting with the students in-between classes to get to know them better. The woman used an analogy of a traffic cone put on the road so people have to go around it. She discussed how staff stands by the walls as students pass through the hallways.
“I thought about this traffic cone and I would put it in the middle of the hallway, so kids would have to go around me,” Schreifels said. “I am 6-foot-2, 250 (pounds) so I kind of stick out, right, and I’m dressed in blue and … kids are kind of forced to look up and I say ‘Good morning,’ ‘Good afternoon,’ or ‘Have a nice day,’ or ‘How are you doing.’ And that was the whole beginning of the handshakes, fist bumps, high fives and hugs with some. It just created a culture.”
Schreifels said he would make an extra effort to make contact with the at-risk students once or twice a day to build healthy, positive relationships. He said he is proud that, through the years, many students would come up to him to discuss certain problems.
When asked what advice he has for the police officer who will succeed him at the high school, he said, “Be calm, create relationships and just be yourself.”
“There is such a persona that most police officers want to portray and I get that. But we are humans, just like anybody else. Just let them know that you’re human. Create those relationships with staff and students, that is key. But also be proactive.”
Schreifels said the school administration has always been open minded about programs, such as when he brought up the Lakes Area Restorative Justice Project.
“There’s always so much going on at the high school because it’s just a busy place, always has been and always will be, and so they would always listen and I became part of these teams (in planning programs),” Schreifels said. “We always wanted to look at ways in how to keep kids from getting cited and to stay out of jail and stuff like that and that’s why we brought the restorative justice project on board which is running strong today.”
LARJP is a community directed, operated nonprofit organization with a mission to foster a strong, healthy community through restorative justice and shifts the focus from punishment to restoring and healing. The program gives the victim a voice and the juvenile offender a chance to repair the harm they have done by their actions.
Schreifels said he loves people and has always enjoyed talking with community members whether it is at the school or in the community, while covering an event or on patrol.
“I am so humbled and grateful for the friendships and relationships with the people I’ve been surrounded with for the past 29 and a half years as a police officer,” Schreifels said. “The police officers, the citizens of the community and those who have served in the high school that I have worked with, there’s just a lot of love there … and will continue to be a lot of love because this profession was very, very, very good to me.”
Schreifels said he will miss the contact with people after he retires, but said he will continue to be involved in all the community organizations he has been a part of.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I have some things in the hopper (for when I retire), but I’m just gonna put it all in God’s hands and see what happens.”
Schreifels has earned several awards over his career, including an award earlier this summer as the 2020 Service to Mankind recipient from the Brainerd Sertoma Club. The award goes to someone who went above and beyond the normal call of duty and is not a Sertoma member. This award is the highest honor Sertoma can bestow on a non-member and it honors outstanding volunteer service to the community.
Schreifels also is involved in many organizations including being a member of Trinity Lutheran Church, Lutheran Social Services Youth Advisory Board, Brainerd Lakes Early Childhood Coalition; and a board member of Mid-Minnesota Women’s Center, Alex and Brandon Child Safety Center, Brainerd Area Youth Ministries, Lakes Area Restorative Justice Program and Brainerd Community Action; a leader and participant of Walk A Mile in her Shoes, recently formed Mental Health Focus Team, Brainerd-Baxter Youth Center and Brainerd Warrior Football.