West Bend welcomes police chief

WEST BEND – As a one-man police force, Anthony Laubenthal has a lot to do.

Ever since the West Bend native became police chief in December, Laubenthal has been answering calls, going on regular patrol, and handling paperwork himself. He’s also spent a lot of time learning, since it’s his first time as a police officer.

“It’s a big learning experience,” Laubenthal said. “I haven’t learned a 10th of what police officers need to know.”

Laubenthal started on Dec. 16, 2013, after the city of West Bend sent him to the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy in Johnston. He started training on Sept. 3 and graduated on Dec. 13.

The academy worked him hard, he said, with many hours of classroom training, tests and physical training.

“It was a ton of classes. It was 580 total hours of training,” he said. “Your day started usually at 7:30, and you were done at 5, but then you would have night classes sometimes until 8, 9 at night.”

Laubenthal trained in both day and night firearms, physical training and defensive tactics.

“That would be like handcuffing, ground fighting, boxing,” he said.

He also had several kinds of driving training, both on gravel and concrete.

“We went out to Newton Speedway. We didn’t get to go on the track, but out in the big parking lots we did precision courses,” he said.

He isn’t alone as he learns how to run his department.

“I’m getting a ton of help from Palo Alto County, and Kossuth County,” Laubenthal said. “They’ve both been awesome helping me. If I have questions I can call them.”

Laubenthal got his associate’s degree from Iowa Central Community College, and then graduated from Iowa State University in 2008 with a B.A. in criminal justice.

He worked as a seasonal park ranger for the Department of Natural Resources during the summers, and after graduation moved to Des Moines. There he worked in loss prevention at Scheel’s, dealing with both internal and external theft.

“It was good. My wife worked down there and had a good job, but after we had our son we knew we wanted to move back somewhere close at some point,” he said. “Then this popped up, and – this is definitely what I wanted to do.”

West Bend was without a police officer for over a year, Laubenthal said, and he’s been working to update the office ever since he moved in. He’s painted the office, updated reports, and is getting the equipment updated.

“When I have the resources to do it,” he said. “It’s going pretty good. Pretty much everything is getting overhauled.”

He’s now working on hiring a part-time officer.

Another thing Laubenthal will get to do is educate the public on safety.

“I’m getting requests from the school, from Mindy’s Miles,” he said. Mindy’s Miles is a West Bend group that holds an annual ride in memory of Mindy Bruellman and Chris Gearhart, who were killed in a car accident in 2008.

Laubenthal said he hopes to visit the school at some point to teach them about helmets and bike safety.