Community policing in La Crosse’s Washburn neighborhood

Chief Tischer: 'I think this is going to be one of those outstanding programs'

A public-private collaboration has created positions for two dedicated police officers who will be part of the community policing program in La Crosse’s Washburn neighborhood.

The La Crosse Police Department has teamed up with Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare and Viterbo University to fund the program.

“I think this is going to be one of those outstanding programs that will serve the neighborhood well,” La Crosse Police Chief Ron Tischer said at a Tuesday morning news conference.

“We had a vision at the police department and that was to bring policing back to the community and back to neighborhoods we’ve lost touch with over the last few years,” Chief Tischer said.

La Crosse Police Officers Nathan Poke and Daniel Ulrich will work out of the new Neighborhood Police Center at 10th and Ferry Streets next to the Washburn Community Garden.

“If people want to have a meeting or come speak with us or have a concern and they don’t want us to come directly to their house, this is going to be an awesome place—a place of safety, a place of anonymity that people can come express themselves,” Officer Poke said.

City of La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat said the officers will be able to get to know the residents of the neighborhood and they’ll get to know them.

“It’s been shown in other community-oriented policing models that this works,” Kabat said. “This is really how you become most effective at providing safety and providing overall neighborhood livabilities when you have those great relationships.”

Kabat said if the city can fully implement Chief Tischer’s vision of six community officers, there will be two on the north side, two in central, and two on the south side.

“I think that there is a perception that there are a lot of things that happen in this (Washburn) neighborhood,” said Vicki Unferth, Chairperson of the Washburn Neighborhood Association. “Sometimes people feel like it’s not a safe neighborhood.  We do have the university here. We do have the hospital. We have a lot of people who travel through this neighborhood.”

But Unferth said with the two community officers in her neighborhood that perception will change and people will get to know them and report more incidents.

Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare and Viterbo University will fund the salary of one community policing officer through 2016. The La Crosse Police Department will fund the second officer’s salary through 2016 through a federal grant obtained with assistance from Senator Tammy Baldwin.

Earlier this month, the La Crosse Community Foundation announced it issued a $75,000 grant to fund a police officer to work strictly on the north side as a neighborhood resource officer.