Meet the Officer: OPD Chief Robert Peterson

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee Police Department (OPD) Chief Robert “Bob” Peterson was born in 1960 in Karlsruhe, the second-largest city in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, in southwest Germany. At the time of his birth, his father was in the United States Army and was stationed in the city that was once part of what was once known as West Germany before the Berlin Wall was torn down back on Nov. 9, 1989. As a self-proclaimed, “military brat,” he continued to move around the country from one small army base to another before his graduation from military high school in Bremerhaven, West Germany.

Chief Robert “Bob” Peterson, OPD

Upon graduation Chief Peterson decided to enlist in the United States Coast Guard. He spent two years stationed in Hawaii and two years in Alaska during his four-year stint. Still, for having only been enlisted a short period of time he was able to attain the rank of Petty Officer Second Class, as what was formerly known as a “Radarman” but is now dubbed an “Operations Specialist.”

“My father retired from the service after 30 years and settled in Palm Bay,” stated Chief Peterson. “I received my discharge in Nov. of 1982, and had a job on a shrimp boat up in Valdez, Alaska. Unfortunately, shrimp season didn’t start until the end of March and was at least another 5 months away. So, I was faced with a hard decision to choose between, winter in Alaska, or the beaches of Florida, which I never experienced.” He laughed while stating, “Figured Florida was the best bet!”

When asked how he found himself in his career field, the chief responded, “At the time, law enforcement officers were in high demand, particularly searching for people who were recently discharged military personnel.” He continued, “So, two months later I found myself as a cadet in the police academy and to think,” he paused before he stated with a chuckle, “there’s probably a shrimp-boat in Alaska possibly waiting for me.”

Chief Peterson began his work for OPD in 1983, the same year he met the person that would be his, “wife of nearly 34 wonderful years,” Loretta. In 1986, he left the OPD and spent the next 10 years with the Glades County Sheriff’s Office where he worked up through the ranks to the position of chief deputy. His sheriff and boss, however, lost the election in 1996 and ultimately saw Chief Peterson’s return to Okeechobee stating, “I came back home to the Okeechobee Police Department, where I’ve been for the last 22 years.”

Chief Peterson has been a member of local law enforcement now for 36 years and is the first member of his family to work in the field.

The chief and his wife share one daughter, Heather, who was born in and raised locally here in Okeechobee. She worked her way through the Okeechobee County School System and graduated from Okeechobee High School in 2008. When he’s not attending Okeechobee City Council meetings, staff meetings, and providing the general direction of the department, he enjoys spending time with his wife, stating, “Loretta does barrel racing in rodeos and loves it. Horses are her life. We have a hobby farm just north of town and spend most daylight hours working on that. Loretta and I also like to spend our weekends paddle boarding with friends and we like to explore this beautiful country as much as possible.” To expand on the chief’s statement, he recently went on a cross-country trip via motorcycle from Florida up to Alaska.

Chief Peterson then chose to break the fourth wall and speak directly to you, the community of Okeechobee, “Enough about me, I would like to pivot this interview to what is really important and that is this department and this community. We understand that making this community a safe place to live is a team effort, a team comprised of not just OPD employees, but of all the residents and business owners in our community. We are you, and you are us. It can work no other way.”

Chief Peterson continued, “We are steadily working towards becoming a community oriented police department by being involved in both, professional and civic local organizations, and by establishing and maintaining positive relationships with our citizens that we serve and protect. This is after all, your department, and it is your needs that are important to us.”

The chief concluded the interview, “I am extremely proud of the men and women that are working with me here at OPD. I set the tone and the direction of the department and they work hard to make it happen, and I know the community is proud of them too.”

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