COLUMBUS — Chuck Sherer has an expectation for every member of the Columbus Police Department.
He’s challenging each employee to come up with a set of goals that reflect a military police motto he adapted for their work.
“Of the people, for the people, by the people.”
Sherer wants his officers to remember who they are, where they came from and who they serve.
“That may sound cliché, but I’m very passionate about that,” he said.
The goal is to have every employee — from the captains to the dispatchers — focused on what they can do to improve themselves, the department and the community.
This means getting involved at church, with service groups or through other roles when they’re not in uniform.
Sherer also wants his officers thinking about public perception when they’re on duty.
“I want our people, every time they have an interaction with the public, to treat them like they would like to be treated if they were on the other side of the badge,” he said.
Sherer, who was named the city’s 16th police chief last week, is entering the position with a lot of excitement and “a bit of trepidation.”
The 57-year-old sees opportunities to create a “long-lasting footprint” in the community through projects such as a consolidated 911 dispatch center for the city and county and proposed public safety facility that could put the police and fire departments under a single roof.
“As the city grows, we want to grow with it,” he said. “I’m looking forward to those challenges.”
But he also wants to maintain the small-town mentality that got him to this point.
A native of Wakefield, Sherer took his first law enforcement job with the Schuyler Police Department at age 19 — just old enough to legally drink at the time.
He completed the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center Academy in February 1980, and was promoted to sergeant the following month. When Schuyler’s police chief was forced to resign because of health issues, Sherer was named interim chief in September 1980 at age 20. The interim tag was removed by the end of the year.
Sherer called that a “very maturing time” in his life.
“Some will say that I was too naive to know the difference, didn’t know what I was walking into,” he said. “But by the same token I wasn’t afraid to try things. If I made a mistake, I learned. I wasn’t afraid to make decisions.”
Sherer served as the police chief in Schuyler for 17 years before deciding to seek a position that offered retirement benefits and a little more job security.
He was sitting in the mayor’s office in McCook, where he was offered the police chief job, when then-City Administrator David Bell called to hire him as a police captain in Columbus.
Sherer accepted the local position, allowing his oldest son Joshua to graduate from high school in Schuyler and his wife Carla to keep her job. His familiarity with the area and Columbus Police Department staff also played a part in the decision.
“I felt comfortable,” said Sherer. “It was an easy move for me to come to Columbus.”
Just three years earlier, Sherer applied to be the police chief in Columbus and was a finalist for the position that went to William Gumm. Now the two were working side by side.
“I always tried to make Bill look good so that someday I could walk into his position,” said Sherer, assuming that Gumm would eventually move on to a job in a larger city.
That never happened, and Gumm remained the police chief here for 20 more years until his retirement in June.
Sherer became close friends with Gumm over the years — they ride motorcycles together in their free time — and he credits his predecessor and former boss for teaching him some valuable lessons along the way.
“He’s been a great mentor and I won’t ever forget his influence on me,” Sherer said.
“I hope that I can live up to his expectations,” he added.
In addition to his law enforcement career, Sherer served in the U.S. Army Reserve for 25 years, joining as a military policeman in 1978 and retiring as a master sergeant in 2003.
As a nuclear, biological and chemical warfare specialist, he trained units tasked with locating weapons of mass destruction during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
He was also director of the SNARE Drug Task Force for four years, received the Ak-Sar-Ben Law Enforcement Award in 1996 and graduated from the FBI National Academy in 2015 — running a sub-10-minute mile at age 56 and completing the academy’s infamous “Yellow Brick Road,” a grueling 6.1-mile obstacle course designed by the Marines.
“That was a challenge,” Sherer said.
As a Columbus Police captain, he led the department’s patrol division for eight years and oversaw Columbus Animal Control.
He also teaches introduction to criminal justice classes at Central Community College-Columbus as an adjunct faculty member and instructs at the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center in Grand Island.
Sherer started coaching youth wrestling when his youngest son Jay — a two-time state champion at Columbus High and Division II national champion at Augustana University — got involved in the sport then decided to become an official.
He’s officiated at the club, high school and collegiate levels, including the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NWCA) national tournament, NAIA national qualifiers and prestigious AAU Scholastic Duals in Florida.
Although he still enjoys officiating, Sherer knows he’ll have to scale back some with his new job.
“I hope that I can continue to do some, but I probably won’t be able to do the schedule that I used to do,” he said.
Sherer and his wife Carla have three children, including daughter Jill DuBray, and eight grandchildren. He gives his kids credit for pushing him to get to where he is today.
“They were a catalyst in my decision to move forward with this,” Sherer said.