I, for one, will miss Chief Joel Klein.
Nine years ago, he sat across my desk from me, then one of a handful of police officers on the St. Joseph force.
He said, “Bad things happen to good people.”
I was reeling from the shock of discovering one of my employees had been embezzling from me for the past 18 months.
This man in blue, who literally dwarfed all around him both in stature and distinction, on first glance, appeared daunting, intimidating and fierce, someone to be reckoned with, possibly an ex-Marine, what with his bald head and muscular build.
But surprisingly, his demeanor was sympathetic and compassionate, kind and caring, protective and calming.
As he listened to my plight, I felt like I was confiding in someone who had my best interests at heart.
He said 98 percent of victims I deal with somehow play a part, intentionally or not, in what happens to them. In this case, he said, I feel you are truly not to blame; this wasn’t the first time she’s scammed someone, she’s just never been caught before.
Then for the next 18 months, Klein handled my case as the county attorney set out to prosecute this woman.
During the course of that time, he would come to visit me every month or two to update me on the status of the investigation, share some of his personal life about his wife and four kids, as well as spend a few minutes playing laser tag with the office cat.
He always brightened my day with his easy smile, twinkling eyes and genuine sense of humor.
I thought to myself, for one who deals with the grittier parts of life, he somehow has managed to keep that in perspective and also stay human in an occupation that surely can strip the goodness from a soul.
One time, I said to him he was a big teddy bear, and he said, don’t let that get around cause it could ruin my reputation.
This spring, someone chose to bring Klein down and do just that, ruin his reputation. Whether the accusations were warranted or not, we’ll never know as those involved were sworn to secrecy and Klein, himself, resigned most likely to avoid a long drawn-out court battle and so he would be able to continue to work in his field.
And, unfortunately for all involved, this generates rumors that may or may not be accurate, fosters mistrust within the community and makes one wonder if the truth will ever come out.
I’m not saying people don’t make mistakes because they do, but Klein is not one who’s so arrogant he wouldn’t admit it if he did. On the contrary, I feel he’s a decent person who’s honest, candid, forthright – a straight shooter.
And though I may not be an expert judge of character, I feel compelled to go to bat for Klein, who consistently proved to me, again and again, his integrity both professionally and as a human being. I choose to believe his virtue and goodness, and am proud to call him a friend and colleague.
Yes, bad things do happen to good people.
I wish you all the best in your future pursuits, Chief Klein.
Author: Janelle Von Pinnon
Von Pinnon has been publishing the St. Joseph Newsleader since 1989, the Sartell-St. Stephen Newsleader since 1995 and the Sauk Rapids-Rice Newsleader since 2015. She graduated from Minnesota State University-Moorhead with degrees in mass communications (with an emphasis on print journalism) and biology. She lives in southeast St. Cloud with her husband and two children.