HUSTISFORD — Police officers never know what they are going to encounter on a call.
Newly-retired Hustisford Police Chief Dan Link received a call early in his 44-year career he has not forgotten.
“While I was working in Menomonee Falls, I took a call of a 12-foot python wrapped around someone in their basement,” Link said. “I arrived first on the scene and I could see the trauma on the woman’s face, who made the 911 call. I went downstairs and there is this huge python wrapped around an adult male, who suffered several puncture wounds on his face from the python trying to eat him.
“Several of the officers had to get control of the python’s head and pull it away from the man’s face,” Link recalled. “The woman told us not to shoot it because it was her son’s python. I told her, ‘He (the son) better get here fast.’”
Link said eventually the son arrived and was able to help release the python’s hold on his dad.
“There are some calls that just don’t go away because you’re dealing with families you personally know,” Link said. “It’s difficult, but you see people in their most desperate times of need, and they see you as someone who can help them. That’s what I’m most proud of. I was there to serve them when they needed it the most.”
When asked hypothetically if he had a young son who came to him and asked if he should go into law enforcement and become a police officer, Link said he wouldn’t hesitate to tell him, “yes.”
“What happens to our law enforcement profession if I try to turn a person away from pursuing a career in it?” Link said. “That wouldn’t be the right thing for me to do. I believe there are officers who make a positive difference. I feel I made a positive difference throughout my years in law enforcement.”
He admitted it now feels strange to have a different set of goals because of his retirement.
“I’m curious as to why I waited so long to retire. Maybe it’s because I loved doing the job each day,” the 65-year-old said, sipping coffee on a sun-soaked September morning in downtown Hustisford.
It’s also likely because Link hails from a service-orientated family.
He said while he has two sisters and three nieces who are nurses, two of his nephews are police officers with one in Madison and the other in DeForest.
“I did enjoy my service to the communities I’ve worked in,” he said. “There no doubt about it.”
Link logged 44 years in the law enforcement community and retired as Hustisford’s top cop just a couple of weeks ago.
He said he was a farm boy when his father urged him to find a different career path.
“There is nothing wrong with farming. It’s difficult work and there are no off days, but my dad wanted me to do something more,” he said.
“I began taking night classes and met a couple of police officers, who took me under their wings, and the rest is history.”
Link admitted he wasn’t too interested in becoming a police officer, but the camaraderie he encountered and the sense of family among officers was something he considered special in the profession.
Link began his career in law enforcement on Aug. 15, 1977 with the Juneau Police Department. He was 21 years old.
“When I was entering law enforcement, there was a negative sentiment with regard to police officers because we were just coming off the end of the Vietnam War,” Link said.
Link stayed in Juneau until 1985 before taking a position with the City of Mayville Police Department, where he worked until 1995.
From there, Link went on to serve the Village of Lomira until 2000 and then to the Village of Menomonee Falls, where he stayed until 2007. From there, his final stop in law enforcement was the Village of Hustisford where he retired Sept. 1.
“I don’t have any regrets,” he said. “I wouldn’t do anything differently.”
Link also served 35 years as a law enforcement training officer, teaching such skills as de-escalation and defense maneuvers and firearm tactics. He also worked as a SWAT team member when he was a member of the Village of Menomonee Falls Police Department.
He said much of his law enforcement training was derived from his work in martial arts where he holds the highly revered title of grandmaster. He and his family began Link’s Martial Arts 28 years ago. They have two locations with one in Mayville and the other in Waupun.
Link also holds black belts in such disciplines as taekwondo and jiujitsu. He said his wife, Tammylin, and their four children: Nicole, Kevin, Gabby and Dannylin also hold black belts in similar defense disciplines.
He and his wife are both in the U.S. Martial Arts Hall of Fame.
The two have taken their students to multiple International Martial Arts Festivals to compete at the ESPN venue located inside Disneyland in Orlando, Fla.
Link said he went into martial arts after he tried breaking up a fight while on third shift in downtown Mayville.
“I turned around and was sucker punched by a third guy,” he said. “He went to prison for battery to a law enforcement officer and I went into martial arts.”
Link said his classes of students, who take martial arts with him, have become family to his own bloodline.
“After I endured a difficult day, it’s great to see the smiling faces of those involved in martial arts classes,” he said.
“Not only has martial arts kept me grounded in positivity, but so has my wife, who has been very understanding and supportive with my work in law enforcement.”
He said there were often times when a family vacation was delayed or a holiday meal was put on ice because he was called out to a scene.
“As a police officer, you’re never going to get away from the domestic abuse calls, severe crashes and EMS incidents because they’re all part of the job,” he said.
“It’s the way you handle those calls that define you as a person. I’ve tried to focus myself in my outside interests and place my energies into my family and martial arts business.”
Link keeps off Facebook and tries his best to stay away from negativity.
He believes a few bad apples of police officers doesn’t ruin the entire bushel even when the national media tries to lump all officers into one category.
Link said he’s happy to be retired and welcomes it. He said he won’t miss the late night investigations or leaving home during a holiday or birthday meal.
He said during his time as an officer he would hand out his business cards with his cell phone number on them so people could call and ask him questions.
“That’s made my time in police work go well over the years,” he said.
“I could connect with people in a special way. I’m very appreciative to help those who sought me out.”
Link said about a year ago, he and his wife began thrifting.
“We will go to flea markets and rummage and estate sales to find things we can sell and give a new home to,” he said.
“It offers my wife and I more time to spend together. It becomes a part of our lifestyle. That’s why I decided to leave police work. It was time to go back to martial arts and be with my family full time.”
Link said Sgt. Greg Kaepernick is serving as Hustisford’s interim police chief.