Billings Police Department’s oldest officer, Craig Wrzesinski, was honored for his 27 years of service Thursday afternoon at his retirement celebration, held at the department’s training facility.
“Craig is the last of an era,” Sgt. Shawn Finnegan said. “It’s been both a privilege and honor to work with him.”
Police Chief Rich St. John welcomed a room full of BPD personnel and Wrzesinski’s friends and family by saying the day marked a very special occasion.
“It is bittersweet — it’s sad to say goodbye, but you leave us all here in good shape.”
Wrzesinski, 63, was hired at age 35 in September 1984 as a Billings police reserve officer and began working full time as a patrol officer in February 1985. His last day of duty was June 28.
After working the day and afternoon shifts, he spent the last 12 years of his career working the night shift on the downtown beat.
“Craig made such a difference on the streets of Billings,” St. John said. “The word smooth comes to mind. And one tough S.O.B.”
Lt. Mark Cady said Wrzesinski had a wealth of experience, but as an “old-school street cop,” the changing technology wasn’t an easy adjustment for Wrzesinski.
“Technology in law enforcement moved a lot faster than him,” Cady said. “Technology may have outmatched him, but nobody on the streets ever outmatched Craig. He is walking out of here with his head held high.”
St. John said Wrzesinski had a “no-return policy” and handled his calls making sure law enforcement wouldn’t have to come back later for further handling.
Wrzesinski was presented with two plaques of honor. His wife, Helen, was also presented with a plaque for all of her years of patience and support of her husband’s career with BPD.
“Whether you know it or not, Craig, you were a great community officer,” St. John said during his commencement speech. “There will be nobody like you in the future, and your candor and brutal honesty will be missed.”
Wrzesinski said he looks forward to his retired days of fishing, golfing, roping and drinking beer.
“It’s been a good run,” Wrzesinski said. “I wish all my friends and co-workers good luck. The times are changing, and there are tough times ahead of them.”
The Billings Police Department will be hiring to replace Wrzesinski’s position. The chief said background checks are being run on a few candidates and that he hopes to make a conditional offer to one of the candidates by the end of next week.