By Herb Meeker
News Report Staff
Jeff Fuesting is getting his family moved to Effingham, while he works to meet the people in his new police workplace.
The newly-hired Effingham Police Chief was moving items from St. Louis to an in-law’s house in Effingham for now until he and his wife, Jennifer, decide on their future residence. It is a homecoming for both because they grew up in Effingham.
With the holidays the home and job changes are producing a busy schedule as he prepares for his first official workday Jan. 3 at Effingham Police Department.
“It is really hectic, but it’s a chance for me to meet with my new staff members,” Fuesting said during a phone interview last Thursday.
This merging of family and work is a situation Fuesting likes to avoid.
“I don’t like to talk shop at home. Police work comes up every once and awhile at home. That’s just the nature of the job,” Fuesting said.
His father, Mark, was an Effingham Police officer and now works with the Effingham Gaming Board. Both Jeff and his younger brother, Brent, became law officers.
Jeff headed west to St. Louis County where he has served for 22 years and attained the rank of captain. Brent went south to the police department in Covington, Georgia, located about 30 miles east of Atlanta. They make an effort not to constantly swap police stories when they get together.
Fuesting, a graduate of Columbia College of Missouri with a degree in criminal justice and the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command, worked for 22 years with St. Louis County Police. As a captain, he had command responsibility over 10 supervisors and 70 officers.
Despite that number of officers, he always believed there was a familial element to his command. That was proven in October of this year when St. Louis County police officer Blake Snyder was shot and killed in Green Park, a south St. Louis County community. Snyder left a widow and toddler son. The shooting occurred during a response to a disturbance and the accused shooter was a teenager.
“That was my toughest assignment in St. Louis County. I got to the hospital and worked with the family and the officers. It was the first line of duty death for our department in 16 years. I had never seen the type of support that came forward. Everyone got a little closer because it struck home that every day can be your last day. You thank the good Lord and make sure to take care of each other.”
Fuesting was also involved in a command role in the Ferguson protests of 2014 that involved violence as well as peaceful demonstrations. As a police command officer, Fuesting doesn’t dwell on tactics and policies, but on the lessons learned from a series of incidents that eventually affected the entire country.
“That showed community engagement is very important. You have to develop relationships with the business owners, the clergy and community leaders. By developing those relationships that can help when a critical incident occurs. They can help you in different ways,” Fuesting explained.
He wants to get a head start on community engagement. He planned to meet with business leaders this week. He will review the current programs now offered by Effingham Police Department. Weather permitting, he even plans a door-to-door effort to get familiar with his new workplace.
“I want to hear what we can do better and what we’re doing right. The walk and talks will cover some neighborhoods, but I want to learn as much as I can about the department from my staff,” Fuesting said.
Of course, he knows his way around Effingham. He grew up in the city and played sports at Effingham High School. Later, he and Jennifer Haarmann would start dating in the city at the center of the Heartland. Now, a generation later, they are coming back.
“I’ve been driving around where I used to live here. It’s fun remembering some of the things I did when I was a kid,” he said.
His son, Tyler, is in college, but daughter, Tori, is getting ready for a move to Effingham for school. Very soon, she will decide on a grade school here.
Her father knows his upcoming decisions at the EPD are Priority One, but he acknowledged getting his daughter into the school of her choice is Priority One-A.