WYOMING — He’s giving up his badge, but keeping his ruler.
Wyoming Borough Assistant Chief of Police Joseph Kopko has retired after 41 years of service, leaving him some free time to take a cruise, attend to his wife’s honey-do list and maybe even tie some kielbasa.
Kopko, 60, joined the police department in 1973. He said he will continue working in the classroom as Wyoming Area’s in-school supervision teacher.
“It’s time,” he said of giving up his police job. “I’ll be spending more time with my wife and kids. We’ve already planned to take an Alaskan cruise.”
After 41 years of police work, Kopko said he recently went on an ambulance call — he’s a certified emergency management technician — and the patient was a 60-year-old man who had a heart attack and died.
“That kind of opened my eyes,” Kopko said. “I had a heart attack 22 years ago and I’m doing fine now, but you never know what can happen.”
He said the experience probably helped push his decision to give up one job.
“You never know when it’s the right time to retire or semi-retire,” he said. “But after that ambulance call, I really started thinking.”
Kopko likes working with children. His job brings him students who are having some difficulty in school. He helps them get through it.
He’s been teaching for 15 years, five years as a substitute and 10 years on staff. Friday was his last day on the police force, and he had some mixed feelings about it.
He said he will miss the daily interactions with residents and business owners. He said he knows Wyoming Borough well, even knowing what cars belong on what streets.
“I guess you can say I know just about everybody,” he said. “Wyoming is still a quiet town with good neighborhoods. I’ve lived here all my life.”
Kopko has seen eight mayors come and go in Wyoming and the current mayor, Bob Boyer, is a close friend.
“I know Joe as a mentor, colleague and friend,” Boyer said. “On a personal note, when I started in law enforcement with the Wyoming police at the age of 19, Joe was one of the first officers I trained with. I worked and trained with Joe for several years before I joined the Kingston police. I was acquainted with Joe several years prior to that through volunteer work with the local ambulance and fire department. We were active with Wyoming Hose Co. No. 1 together.”
Boyer said he valued the on-the-job-training Kopko provided him.
“Assistant Chief Kopko has served the borough well as a police officer and his professionalism and dedication were recognized as he earned two promotions during his career — to sergeant and then assistant chief of police,” Boyer said.
Kopko has served as a volunteer firefighter and EMT and is the emergency management coordinator for the borough.
“The Borough Council, Police Department and I congratulate Joe on his well-deserved retirement,” Boyer said. “His service and dedication is appreciated.”
Kopko said his family once operated a grocery store — Kopko’s Market — on 5th Street that closed in the 1980s. He said his friend Dave Fetch has asked if he would be interested in helping out.
“Maybe I can tie some kielbasa,” Kopko joked.
But for now, he will spend more time with his wife, Deborah, and daughters Kristin and Kathleen. He will work on Deborah’s “honey-do” list and maybe start some hobbies.
“My hobby has been work,” he said. “I think I’ll get back to the gym to work out, and I know I have to clean out the attic, the cellar and the garage.”
No more days of rising at 6 a.m., school at 7:10 a.m., out at 2:30 p.m., and then off to do police work at 3 p.m.
“Like I said, it’s time. I’m not getting any younger,” he said.