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'Sweater cop' hangs it up

Hudson Police Officer Mark Crimmins recently retired after close to 30 years with the department. He spent 10 years of that time as the school police liaison officer for the Hudson School District where he got the nickname “sweater cop,” an homage to the serious collection of sweaters he wore to school most days. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Meg Heaton)

Hudson Police Officer Mark Crimmins finished his career with the Hudson Police Department on Jan. 31 after close to 30 years.

He joined the department part-time in 1980 and became a full-time member of the department in 1985. He is a hometown boy having graduated from Hudson High School in 1978. Crimmins, 54, attended UW-River Falls, earning a degree in sociology. He and his wife Cindy have been married since 1983 and they have two adult children, Katie and Kevin.

Over the years Crimmins has served the department as an evidence technician, developing the field training program for new officers and acting as the field training supervisor and more but he said his best assignment was his 10 years as the school liaison officer with the Hudson School District.

Crimmins earned the nickname “sweater cop,” among the students at Hudson High School where he spent most of his time. He dressed in plain clothes, mostly in sweaters, because he believe it made him more approachable to the students and he saw that as one of the primary goals of his job.

“It was a wonderful experience working with the kids, the teachers and staff, and the parents. It was important to gain everybody’s trust and I think the plain clothes helped. I wanted them to feel like I was somebody they knew and somebody who could do something about their concerns.”

Crimmins said that interacting with students was the best part of those 10 years but they also served a very important purpose. “The best way to avoid a school catastrophe is to keep kids talking. I believe that with the rapport I had there, I would have known if anything bad was in the works.”

That rapport didn’t happen overnight. Crimmins said it took about three years for him to gain the trust of the students and a couple more to earn it with parents but he eventually made the connection. He said the students he knew back then still come up to him around the community and talk about where they are now and how they are doing.

“That is really nice when it happens, especially those kids who were dealing with tough things. They tell me they kicked an addiction and have a job and a family. That is so good to hear and one of the real rewards of the job.”

Crimmins came into contact with middle school students through the CounterAct anti-drug program he conducted every year. Many of those students sought him out when they came to HHS. He also regularly spoke in driver’s education course, read to elementary students and participated in classes when asked, including a crime scene investigation for a middle school lesson.

Crimmins said there are lots of things he will miss about being a cop but the stress of the job isn’t one of them. While he says it may not seem like being a police officer in Hudson is as difficult as being one in a big city, the job has inherent stress that is part of the job anywhere.

“You still have to deal with crashes, robberies, shootings, domestic disputes, trouble with kids and deaths and suicides. I think the death notifications were the hardest part of the job. That never got easier but having the chaplain corps on board now really helps.”

Crimmins said getting rid of that stress is a big reason he decided to retire now. “It is a tough job long term and it can take a toll. I’m sure it will take a while to unwind from it.”

He said his reason for becoming a police officer all those years ago is the same now -- to help people, whether it is stopping to help change a tire, using an AED to save a life or helping a young person change direction.

“I think the most important thing I have done over the years is listen to people -- that’s all most people want, kids or adults, is to have someone hear them.” Crimmins said more often than not people will acknowledge their mistakes and take the consequences if they feel they have been heard.

Crimmins, who lives in the Troy Township house where he grew up, said he expects he will keep busy in retirement but plans to make time to travel with Cindy, play some golf, do some fishing and maybe take up woodworking again.

Crimmins said he is ready to retire and can walk away from the job feeling good about what he accomplished. “I enjoyed it all from start to finish. I did what I wanted to do and not everybody can say that. I feel lucky.”

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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