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The City Hall Chamber was packed with police officers from throughout the country, along with family and friends, a gathering of more than 100 well-wishers who came to send off Winter Springs Police Chief Chris Deisler Monday night.
Deisler had recently announced his retirement after 30 years serving in one police department, the one he’d started with in 1992.
Over the course of a brief speech, Deisler told stories of how the station once was and hints of antics behind closed doors, set to scenes of Winter Springs’ past and future. He recalled Papa Tony’s restaurant, joking that it was at fault for his craving of garlic knots and chicken parmesan.
Deputy Chief Matthew Tracht recalled how Deisler was a janitor and garbage man before he swore an oath on May 7, 1992 to become a police officer for the first time, when many of the roads leading through town were still made of dirt, some of them just wide enough for one car.
Deisler told of how, when former Chief Dan Kerr arrived in 1995, a transformation happened at the station that he said set the template for how he would act as chief.
“If any of you who live in the city understand the way we do business, thank that guy right there, because he started it,” Deisler said, referencing Kerr in the audience.
Quick to point out former officers he knew in the crowd who’d come back to see him off, Deisler mentioned more than a dozen officers by name.
One of those names in the back was Eric Faron, one of Deisler’s partners from back in 1993, who had come from his home in North Carolina to see him off.
“Wrap it up, chrome dome,” Faron joked during Deisler’s speech.
Deisler mentioned a tradition he’d had with his old partner. At the end of the week, they’d both walk out the back doors, past the air conditioners of City Hall, where the police station used to be housed, finishing their shift together. He planned to do it again, one more time.
“That was our back door,” he said. “So Eric and I are going to take one last walk out that back door. And I think that’s pretty damn cool.”
He thanked his wife and his daughter, and former officers who themselves had recently retired – Lt. Will Maxwell and Cpl. Michelle Angeloff, both longtime motorcycle officers, and also officers he’d soon be leaving behind.
“I didn’t think it would go this quick,” Deisler said. “That’s why I tell you all, ‘Have fun doing what you’re doing.’”
What Deisler himself will be doing is moving to Colorado and taking the job of chief of police for Woodlawn Park, a fact that triggered numerous jokes about cold weather from the audience. Deisler joked that moving to the mountains got him out of having to buy his wife a Porsche 911.
He leaves behind Tracht as his interim replacement.
“I’m confident that the members of Woodlawn Park are in good hands, as they’re getting one of the best,” Tracht said. “This agency will have big shoes to fill.”
“I don’t know any other house than this one, and that’s OK, because this will always be my family here,” Deisler said.
Officers from Winter Springs presented him with the flag that had flown outside of the department up to the day he announced his retirement, plus a box of cigars. Tracht joked that he wanted to buy Deisler a bottle of oxygen for the mountains.
“It’s well-deserved,” Mayor Kevin McCann said of the send-off. “[He’s a] wonderful man.”
He left after a final volley of thanks and “I love yous,” with parting words of advice he’d given all along.
“I tell everybody I swear in, you take that badge off your chest, you’re going to get about 30 grams on a gram-scale. That’s all it weighs. That badge isn’t worth anything. It’s what you make of that badge that matters, because you are allowed to be police because the people let us.”
Deisler left to a round of applause, some final pictures, then took a walk out of the back doors.