At home on patrol

Published 10:31 am Thursday, November 14, 2013

Austin Police officer Christopher Garbisch, a graduate of Hayfield High School, is Austin’s newest officer, coming back to the area after working for the Minneapolis Police Department. Eric Johnson/

Austin Police officer Christopher Garbisch, a graduate of Hayfield High School, is Austin’s newest officer, coming back to the area after working for the Minneapolis Police Department. Eric Johnson/

Brownsdale native’s career path leads him back to where it all started

He’s no stranger to the area, has years of experience in a bustling police department and already knows many of the officers on the force.

Hiring criteria aside, it would have been an easy choice to select Brownsdale native Christopher Garbisch as the new officer in the Austin Police Department. But that’s not quite how the process works. However, looking at the hiring criteria likely made the decision even easier. Of all the reasons he could have been a good hire, his boss says it quite plainly.

“He tested out No. 1,” said Police Chief Brian Krueger.

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Garbisch, a 2001 Hayfield High School graduate who grew up near Brownsdale, was the top candidate among 69 applicants after screening, mental and physical tests and interviews. It wasn’t just good fortune, though. Garbisch has put in the hard work, and been put through the ringer.

Growing up near Brownsdale, Garbisch met former Brownsdale officer Ryan Leif, who is now with APD. As a high schooler, Garbisch got to know Leif, went on ride-alongs and found a way to learn even more.

“He referred me over to Austin Explorers,” Garbisch said.

Garbisch spent several years in the Austin Police Explorers program, until he was 21. Austin Police Capt. David McKichan was one of his advisers at the time.

Garbisch had a hunch law enforcement was the career for himself, and McKichan could tell.

“He was someone who wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement, so he took his activities with the Explorers very seriously,” McKichan said. “He was a leader within the post. He held some leadership positions, rankings that mimicked the police department’s rankings.”

Garbisch had more law enforcement training from Riverland Community College and a skills program in Rochester. However — without actual job experience — he kept finding rejection letters, or his way back out the door if he received an interview.

“When I was coming out of school, it was next to impossible to find a job,” Garbisch said. “I applied at several different places, getting ‘thanks, but no thanks.’”

Garbisch doesn’t know how many applications and resumes he submitted, and he was stuck in the conundrum of needing job experience, but needing the first job to get that experience.

“It was like, anything that came open on the post board, I’d throw my name in the hat,” Garbisch said. “It was very frustrating.”

Persistence, and willingness to take a job far from home, paid off. Garbisch found a position with the Leech Lake Tribal Police.

“They hired me, so I took it,” he said.

Garbisch quickly realized why departments seek that on-the-job experience. He had just been thrown to the wolves.

“When I started, I had no idea what I was doing,” Garbisch said. “They put me out there, and I was like, ‘Oh my God; what do I do?’”

Not long after that, Garbisch landed a job with the Minneapolis Police Department, where he served for seven years.

Some weren’t surprised.

“It was no surprise to me to find out that he had later gone on to Minneapolis and had a successful start to his career,” McKichan said.

Garbisch admits he doesn’t know everything as an officer. He’s still learning, but he said Minneapolis offered plenty of valuable experiences.

“A lot of gun crime, a lot of robberies, burglaries, narcotics, violent criminals,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of things.”

Garbisch also served in rotations as a sniper on the SWAT team. He always had the urge to move closer to his roots, though.

“I always had it in mind,” Garbisch said. “I didn’t know when it was going to happen.”

Then the Austin position opened several months ago.

“I put my name in, and everything panned out really nicely,” Garbisch said.

In just five weeks on the job in Austin, where he now lives, Garbisch says his job is going well. While he’s not versed with exact addresses, he knows all the landmarks. Other than some internal policies, the transition has been pretty smooth. He knows the officers. He has commitment to the job.

“I believe he’s got a passion for his line of work,” Krueger said. “I think he’s a really good listener, and will do a really fine job for this department. He holds many characteristics that we are looking for in a police officer.”

Garbisch admits it sounds cliche, but the rewards of helping those in need and getting positive feedback are the best parts of being a police officer.

“Getting ‘thank-you’s’ and helping people — someone who actually appreciates your help — is pretty rewarding,” he said.

In his spare time, Garbisch enjoys hunting, fishing and spending time with his girlfriend, who also went through the Explorers program and works part time in law enforcement. But one can bet after any vacation or hiatus, Garbisch will return to uniform. He could be set to finish his career in Austin, plans to get a four-year degree and hopes to someday move up the ranks.