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Radke goes off duty
‘Officer Friendly’ enjoying early days of retirement
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Luann Radke, third from right, enjoys an Australian vacation in 2015 with her family. Radke served with the Monroe Police Department for 40 years before retiring in early 2021.

MONROE — While enjoying her retirement visiting family and relaxing, Luann Radke fondly remembers her early days at the Monroe Police Department.  

Radke’s 2021 retirement meant the end of her 40 years with the department; 40 years she is grateful to have spent in Monroe.

“It had a good school district, the police department was community-oriented. It had a wonderful administration at the time I was hired, everything just fit,” Radke said. “I feel so fortunate to have spent my career in Monroe.”

At the time she started her career, Radke worked with only one other female officer, who was working as a juvenile officer.

Radke was the department’s first female patrol officer, but that never got in the way of doing her job.

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Luann Radke poses with her two of her five brothers, who were also police officers, and her mother early on in Luann’s career in law enforcement. Radke retired in early 2021 after 40 years with the Monroe Police Department.

“The police department welcomed me with open arms as their first female patrol officer,” she said. “They accepted me, I had no issues with any of the coworkers.”

Growing up with five brothers, being the only woman in the crowd of men is not a feeling with which Radke is unfamiliar.

She was born and raised in Sheboygan before leaving for college at UW-Platteville. She studied criminal justice with an emphasis in corrections but soon realized that corrections weren’t for her.

Instead, she started applying to police departments and ended up in Monroe. She didn’t initially anticipate it becoming her permanent residence, but the community’s charm kept her here.

“I’m really proud to have made Monroe my home and to have been a service to this city for 40 years,” she said. She and husband Chuck have been married 37 years and have three adult children — Eric, Quinn and Ellie, plus two grandchildren, Kipp, 2, and Bellamy, 1, who live in Canada with Ellie and her husband, Dave Cianfrini. 

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Radke and granddaughter Bellamy in 2020.

During her 40 years at the department, Radke has been able to serve the community in more ways than just being an officer.

She’s worked with countless Monroe children, teaching programs such as Officer Friendly, D.A.R.E, Patch the Pony and Bucklebear, each of which served as an educational lesson for students, with the moral of each ranging from “stranger danger” to the importance of seatbelts.

Radke said that, even today, she will have adults come up to her and recall their days with Officer Friendly or other programs.

“I think the students always walked away feeling more knowledgeable and proud,” Northside Elementary School Principal Amy Timmerman said of Radke’s safety programs. “Besides the D.A.R.E. program, I’ve always considered Luann a tremendous resource.”

That small-town recognition and community feel is just part of what kept Radke in Monroe for so long.

Monroe was a nice community. It was small town living, it was a safe community. It was just a wonderful place to work.
Luann Radke

“Monroe was a nice community,” she said. “It was small town living, it was a safe community. It was just a wonderful place to work.”

Over the years, Radke was able to really immerse herself into the community in ways that may not have been possible in a larger department.

Some of those community memories remain among her favorite of her time at the department, especially those surrounding Cheese Days. 

Radke looks back at the festival with a bit of an affectionate yearning, recalling the hours spent working as an ambassador for the city and talking with community members and tourists.

“They were always long hours, but it was always neat to go out on the Square and help people and talk to people,” she said.

In September, Radke will celebrate her first Cheese Days off the clock, experiencing the community and celebration as a bystander instead.

“It’s kind of weird,” she said. “You spend your life with one thing and then you’re done with it.”