Kuyper retires after 23 years in law enforcement
FARMINGTON — Police work runs deep in Steve Kuyper's family.
This week Kuyper retires after 23 years serving in public safety as a Farmington officer. He decided in back in junior high to become a police officer alongside his twin brother. who took police explorers training for Bloomington where they lived.
Two of Kuyper's sons were inspired by their father to enter the police academy and today work as Minnesota cops.
"When you become accustomed to seeing someone every day and they are no longer there, it sort of yanks at your heartstrings, so I am going to desperately miss Steve when he leaves," Police Chief Brian Lindquist said.
Kuyper has spent his law enforcement career in Farmington. Kuyper has been a school resource officer, a field training officer, crime prevention officer and sometimes worked on investigations. He also stepped up to speak about city issues for the community cable station.
Kuyper and his wife Annette, founded the Yellow Ribbon City Network 10 years ago. He helped to lead an effort to train officers about veterans' needs.
For the past eight years, Kuyper has served on Farmington Planning Commission. He said strives to bring a common-sense approach to the commission keeping in mind public safety concerns with any new potential development.
"We are going to miss him dearly — and his shorts," Lindquist said.
When Kuyper began working for the city in 1995, Farmington was town with a modest population of 7,000 and he was the seventh officer hired. Today the city boasts 23,000 residents and employs 24 police officers.
"My career has gone through the growth of the city as it has changed and developed with new streets from two-lane dirt roads to four lanes and all the changes we have seen with the new high school," Kuyper said.
For many years, he worked as an SRO at the middle schools, a job he said he liked, bonding with kids and watching them mature and grow up, along with two other SROs who worked in the Farmington schools. Today there is only one SRO in Farmington.
As a proponent of employing SROs, especially today, Kuyper said the role is all about building relationships and trust with youth. He said that is vital to engaging youngsters and protecting the community.
"I don't think we need armed guards in the school setting, but again it is just with all the mental health stuff going on and sometimes it is the parenting that is not there and you can't fix it and you may not know about it," Kuyper said.
Nationwide, working to maintain school safety from violence is not an easy fix, he said.
"Society changes where after 9/11 everybody loved us and now we are in a phase where not everyone is happy with the police," Kuyper said.
"I tell people everybody that we are human beings and I tell officers you can make mistakes and sometimes they can be costly or deadly so you hope they don't do that," Kuyper said. "I tell people I don't treat anyone different because of race or religion and my customers and clients are all treated the same, and how I treat them is how I am treated by them."
When asked how to improve the public's overall perception of police officers, Kuyper has a couple ideas.
"One is the public needs to stop believing everything on Facebook, because not everything is correct out there or true," Kuyper said.
"People are putting out incorrect information and that is why we offered the Citizen's Academy to educate," Kuyper said.
Kuyper was honored for his service at the May 21 Farmington City Council meeting.
Following in father's footsteps
Both sons decided to pursue careers as Twin City cops and that makes Kuyper proud.
"I joke with them that they were dumb like their dad and went into the same line of work, but really I am honored they both chose the profession and they are both good cops," Kuyper said.
"Who knows, maybe my grandchildren will become police officers?" Kuyper said.
"They know the lifestyle and what was going on, and now they are doing it, so now I will worry about them in retirement."
After he retires this week, he plans to work part time as a police officer at the airport.
"My plans are to spend time with my grandchildren and become grandpa limo driver and travel with my wife," Kuyper said.
In a couple years, Kuyper said he may run for a seat on the Farmington City Council.
"I am ready to move on to the next chapter of my life and I have enjoyed my 23 years of serving the community, and I could not have asked for a better family or group to work with and try to help out and I am going to miss them because I am a people person."