Last Member Of Dane County Traffic Police Retires

Every retirement is special, but not every retirement is historic. In the case of a Dane County sheriff’s police sergeant, it was both.

In 1926, Dane County officials first realized the need for traffic enforcement. By 1931, the job required its own agency. It was called the Dane County Traffic Police Force, according to current Sheriff Dave Mahoney. Back then, deputies didn’t make traffic stops and until the early 1980s, the traffic police also had ambulance duty.

“(Traffic police) drove station wagons, which held two stretchers in back,” said Mahoney.

Mahoney had just joined the force when the traffic police finally merged with the Sheriff’s Office in 1981. It’s also when he met and became lifelong friends with Sgt. Gordy Disch.

Last week, Disch turned in his badge. He became the final member of the Dane County Traffic Police to retire from the Sheriff’s Office, an agency he had repeatedly turned down early in his career.

“It’s kind of like a family, and it’s hard to walk away from family,” said Disch. “You applied for Dane County, and you had a choice: Traffic or Sheriff. Well, I kept turning down the Sheriff’s Office until I finally got hired with traffic in April of ’79.”

Disch was laid off shortly after, only to be rehired after the death of fellow Officer Harlend Orsburne in a crash Disch himself came upon while heading home.

“The night before, (Orsburne) and I had dinner together, and I was coming back from EMT school and there (the crash) was,” said Disch.

In 1987, Disch became a sergeant and most recently, he headed the county’s Gang and Narcotics Task Force.

“I consider Gordy a true leader in this organization,” said Mahoney.

Mahoney said Disch’s retirement leaves a void, but after 36 years in law enforcement, he won’t be too far away.

“(I’ll) still be a resource and serve people. I like people. I truly believe that everyday is a learning experience, and I don’t want to ever sit still and let my mind go idle,” said Disch. “So I always got to be creative and doing something.”

At 57, Disch has plenty of time to figure out his next adventure. Before joining the traffic police in 1979, he worked with Verona police and has retained an “as needed” post there ever since. Disch said he’s tried to tender his resignation to the Common Council twice, and both times they’ve refused, so Disch decided they’re stuck with him.