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A cop's Kopp

His first name was Joyce and his last name was Kopp, a fitting surname for a man who was revered in the local law enforcement community.

Joyce Kopp, the Wadena police chief from 1975-1989, passed away Dec. 31. He was 77.

The two men who succeeded Kopp as Wadena police chief described him as a mentor and a "cop's cop."

Lane Waldahl met Kopp in 1981 when he learned of an opening at the Wadena Police Department.

"He took me into his office and gave me some info [about the job]," Waldahl recalled. "He asked me, 'What's your goal?' I said, 'To have your job.' He said, 'That's a good idea. You're hired.'"

Waldahl said Kopp was a tremendous mentor to him, both before and after he succeeded Kopp in the job.

"When I became chief, he was always there to call," Waldahl said. "He was just a great chief. He listened to you. He listened to your ideas."

Bruce Uselman, Wadena's current police chief, said Kopp still lent his knowledge, experience and guidance to him even up to this past summer.

"Even the summer after the tornado, he would stop in then," Uselman said. "He wasn't feeling the best, but he would still stop in and see how we were doing. It was really reassuring for both Lane and I to have him close by and to check in. [He] was great as a mentor."

Waldahl said Kopp was an avid hunter and fisherman, and was a community-minded person.

Uselman remembered him as a larger-than-life personality.

"He was a very strong character. When he walked in a room, he had that presence about him," Uselman said. "He really had the respect of his peers."

Kopp helped set up the Minnesota Chiefs Association, Uselman said, and when he came to Wadena in 1975, he set up the concept of child protection teams.

"That was very instrumental in how we operate today," Uselman said. "That was, I think, his passion: families and especially kids -- keeping kids safe."

Then Uselman used the phrase that all law enforcement officers use to show the highest respect: "In the police world, Joyce was a cop's cop. He was the one law enforcement officers would go to him for advice. In our world, he was always the chief, even though we were wearing the badge."

And that unusual first name, why was he named Joyce?

For that, his wife, Lois, had an answer.

"There was an attorney in Long Prairie, and his name was Joyce," Lois Kopp said. "At the time, it wasn't that strange, I guess."

She said years ago, she asked Joyce why he didn't just go by his middle name, Harold.

"Nope, Joyce is my name," he told her.

Kopp was laid to rest after a funeral service Wednesday at Wadena United Methodist Church. Fittingly, the church was surrounded by cop cars to send him off.