Lt. Robert Kurta and Patrolman Joseph Staniszewski, have both served more than 30 years, are retiring.
By Amy Philips-Haller
The South Fayette Police Department began the new year without two of its career officers: Lt. Robert Kurta and Patrolman Joseph Staniszewski.
“That is 70 years of experience that we are losing in one day,” said police Chief John Phoennik regarding the retirement of the two officers on Dec. 31, 2015.
Mr. Kurta, 60, worked for Glassport for five years before coming to South Fayette in March 1983. Mr. Staniszewski, 63, began his career with South Fayette when he was hired in June 1978.
“I have always felt that it was an honor to serve this community,” Mr. Staniszewski said.
Mr. Kurta, of South Fayette, has mixed emotions. “It’s hard to leave a job that you have done for so long. This job is not like most. It puts you into the community and in touch with everything. It becomes a way of life and your identity. My neighbors, friends, family, they all know me. Whether you’re in church or at the grocery story, people know who you are. They know they can come to you when they have a need.”
Mr. Staniszewski launched the DARE program in South Fayette about 25 years ago. Back then, he was referred to as Officer Stan.
“I have seen both sides of the coin over the years. Some kids have come back and said, ‘Because of you, I stayed away from alcohol and drugs.’ Others have decided not to drive when they were intoxicated. Some have even admitted, ‘I should have listened to you.’ It is fulfilling because they learned something from the teaching,” Mr. Staniszewski said.
“I am personally ready for a change,” he said. “Years of shift work in a small department with 24/7 service requires everyone does it. It takes a lot out of you after awhile,”
He hopes to continue working, launching a career that has a Monday through Friday schedule with weekends off.
Mr. Kurta also hopes to continue working and is tossing around ideas for future endeavors.
“I’ll miss having my finger on the pulse of what’s going on here. When you’re in the department every day you just know what’s going on,” he said.
Both men said they hope that they have left their mark by building a positive community rapport.
“There is a multitude of things that we have collectively handled where we have tried to change attitudes toward the police. In our community we have achieved some of those goals by the way we work with the public. Those individual interactions make our job either easier or harder depending on those moments,” Mr. Staniszewski said.
“There is such anti-police sentiment these days. We have worked hard to be approachable and foster good community relationships, and I am proud of being a part of that,” said Mr. Kurta.
“The biggest thing for me is that they were both very instrumental in forming my career. They were ’78 and ’83. I was ’90,” said Chief Phoennik. “They were both always willing to lend a hand.”
The township hired three new officers in 2015 in anticipation of the three men who retired that same year.
“We wish them the best,” said township Manager Ryan Eggleston.
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