Investigative work is in Ottawa Police Department Lt. AJ Schmidt's blood.
He spent the past couple of decades investigating all types of crimes during his law-enforcement career. So it's only natural that Schmidt, who retired Friday from law enforcement, plans to stay in a similar field as an investigator in the insurance business.
“It follows the same thing I have been doing — investigations (of) claims,” Schmidt said.
Ottawa Police Chief Adam Weingartner said Schmidt will go on to be successful in the next chapter of his life.
“He has a personality that will not allow him to fail,” Weingartner said. “That is a true measure of a leader in law enforcement.”
Schmidt leaves behind big shoes to fill in the police department. Weingartner said Schmidt started his career as a patrol officer and moved up the ladder. Soon, he led the department's sexual assault investigations unit, and later, when he was promoted to lieutenant, he became patrol division commander.
“Lt. Schmidt, throughout his career, has been involved in programs that are near and dear to our hearts,” Weingartner said. “He does the most for our community because it impacts victims. He helps victims and survivors. AJ impacts victims. We have victims because we have crime. You would show up on a call that involved family violence, children, sexual assault, they would ask for AJ ... that is the personal connection he made with people. The dedication he had to the job. I have heard it from people about how they appreciate his personal touch and dedication. He is a true legend in our department, with what he has been able to accomplish, given the limited resources that we have.”
Weingartner said Schmidt recently finished working on the sexual kit assault initiative with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
“Without his direct support and guidance, I don’t think the program would have been as successful as it was,” Weingartner said. “It is a legacy that will long last the end of his career. It is exceptional work.”
Schmidt said his law enforcement career has been interesting.
“There were good times and rough times,” he said. “We got through all of them. I did work a lot of child cases. There are a couple in particular that stand out. It had good outcomes, with the defendant being held accountable. I have developed some lifelong friendships.”
Schmidt said domestic and sexual assault cases are not necessarily increasing.
“More people are coming forward now and reporting it,” he said. “It is not as taboo as it used to be. There are more resources for people out there. We have done really (well) on being there for victims.”
Franklin County Attorney Brandon Jones said Schmidt’s investigative work made it easier to prosecute cases.
“We are able to get the bad guys because of all the work you put in,” Jones said.
Ottawa city manager Richard Nienstedt said Schmidt's quiet leadership and demeanor rubbed off on others.
“When there is chaos around you, you are taking care of others,” Nienstedt said.
OPD Sergeant Casey Gillmore said Schmidt’s legacy will carry on for years to come.
“We are all better officers and better investigators because of (your leadership),” Gillmore said.
Lt. Doug Waterman said Schmidt’s work and presence will be irreplaceable.
Schmidt said the timing was right to step away from law enforcement.
“It is bittersweet,” he said. “I will miss working with people. I will miss working with the citizens of Ottawa. I am ready to spend more time with my family. I have been thinking about it for a while.”
Schmidt said his successful law enforcement career did not come without the help of others.
“The whole time it has been a group effort,” he said. “Through all investigations — especially when you get into more serious ones — you have to work hand-in-hand as far as officers. Everybody has their own little niche they work in. Not one of us could do it by ourselves.”