As a freshman in college, Robert Gleim began to pursue a career path in education, but he soon realized teaching was not for him. That led him to a career as a police officer where he gets to engage with the public and youth.
Gleim, who grew up in Brighton, Colorado, had moved to Greeley to complete his undergraduate studies when one of his friends had been attending a citizens police academy hosted by a local police department. He asked Gleim if he wanted to come and it resulted in him changing his career plans.
“I said, ‘I’ll try it and see how it goes,’” he said of the academy. “I went and I invited my dad. Both of us attended the citizens police academy in Evans and after that, I just fell in love with the job and everything it entailed.”
Gleim returned to the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, declaring a new major in criminal justice. As part of the program, Gleim completed an internship with the Evans Police Department for six months. He went on ride alongs and worked the three different shifts — morning, day and night to better understand the responsibilities.
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During his internship, Gleim said he thought, “'This is a sweet job. I can’t wait to get into this field.'”
Following graduation, Gleim moved to Gering to join the Gering Police Department and completed the state’s police academy. Most Nebraska departments pay officers to attend the academy and their wages while they are at the academy. Officers in Colorado had to pay between $16,000 to $20,000 to attend the academy while also not receiving a paycheck during that time. That difference drove Gleim to choose Nebraska to launch his career.
As an officer, one challenge Gleim regularly faces is the difference in attitude toward police officers versus teachers. While teachers are usually liked, that is not the general consensus toward cops. Initially, he entered the workforce as a patrol officer with the Gering Police Department in 2014, eager to make a difference.
During his field training officer (FTO) period, he experienced his first drunken driving arrest.
“That was a big first for me. We had our first driving pursuit, our first foot pursuit. I had a lot of firsts in my FTO and they were big eye openers like ‘I’m really a cop’ at this point.”
After gaining a grasp on his job as a patrol officer, Gleim traveled to Lincoln to complete a two weeks-long School Resource Officer (SRO) training program where he learned the applicable laws governing an SRO’s actions.
Gleim serves as an SRO for Gering Public Schools, spending the majority of his time at Gering High School. However, he does occasionally make trips to Northfield Elementary, during lockdown drills and when needed. As an SRO, Gleim said his goal is to build relationships and a repertoire with the students.
“It makes my job easier, the more students I have on my side,” he said. “They’re willing to talk to me and tell me stuff.”
When he first began working in the schools, Gleim said it was a challenge not knowing any of the students. With no trust yet established, he learned of criminal violations after the fact, which made his job of obtaining information in investigations harder. Now, the students respect him and offer insights to potential situations, allowing Gleim to be more proactive than reactive.
“I’ve met so many more people as an SRO than as just a patrol officer,” he said. “Me, not being from here, I pretty much just met the people who I arrested. Now, I’ve met all of the teachers and a lot more relationships have been built.”
Since first putting on a badge, his approach to situations has changed from being more black and white to more gray.
“I’ve learned there are many ways to use your officer discretion. There’s not just handcuffing and arresting suspects and taking them to jail,” Gleim said. “There are other options.”
In addition to his roles as a patrol officer and SRO, Gleim is the department’s emergency vehicle operations instructor, so he conducts the pursuit driving and day-to-day driving training as well as going through policy with the department’s officer and setting up a driving course roughly every few months.
“The only thing I’d say you struggle with in setting up the course is the cones,” Gleim said. “My courses are usually 400 to 500 cones and you have to move all of the cones to each spot and you have to have each cone a certain width apart.”
The course must also contain various obstacles like stop-and-go sections and reverse serpentine into a backing garage sections, which he enjoys. However, developing a new course gets harder over time as he tries to not duplicate a previous one.
“They say half of all accidents are when people are backing up, so I always have a reverse section as well.”
When school is out for the summer or on a break, Gleim fulfills his duties as a patrol officer.
“It’s like the perfect job because you have three to four months at a time where you’re just strictly a SRO and then you have random school days where the school days have off, so I can go do traffic stops,” he said. “The SRO position is a pretty good all around position.”
Gleim will celebrate his eighth year with Gering PD on July 7 and looks forward to fostering more relationships with students and the community.
“If anyone wants to talk with me at any time of the day, I’d be more than happy to talk to them,” Gleim said. “I’m a cop, but I’m a normal person as well.”