Public safety hires new officers, looks to enhance crime prevention
October 11, 2007
Two new public safety officers have been hired to provide crime prevention to the UW-River Falls campus while administration officials look into the possibility of adding sworn police officers to the Public Safety Department.
The addition of the two new public safety officers brings the total count of full-time officers at UWRF to four. The full-time officers are also assisted by three limited-term employment positions that are used to fill the gaps in the schedule.
Dan Hayden and Lesa Wotias were hired to fill vacancies on the Public Safety staff. Hayden is currently working as a public safety officer for the department and Wotias is in the field training stage of the hiring process, Director of Public Safety Richard Trende said.
“The new officers are great,” Public Safety Officer Don Knutson said. “This job is different than other police jobs, so right now it’s a matter of getting them trained in.”
The new hires are a result of the departure of two veteran public safety officers earlier this year. Ken Kromrey, a long time officer, retired from the Public Safety Department. The other, Joel Klatt, was hired by the Cumberland Police Department, Trende said.
There was a third officer hired, Adam Balow, but he only worked a short time with Public Safety before being hired by the New Richmond Police Department. As a result there has been a gap in the Public Safety schedule.
“One of the full-time positions has been vacant for a year,” Trende said.
Currently the plan is to fill the open full time position with a limited-term employee until a full-time officer can be hired, Trende said.
“We’re trying to protect the environment for both the student working and attending classes on campus and for the employees working to make sure things are safe,” Trende said.
The Public Safety Department also works in conjunction with the River Falls Police Department and the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Department to provide crime prevention on campus when assistance is needed beyond the scope of their responsibilities, according to the Public Safety Web site.
“Working closely with the campus officers is a two-way street,” River Falls Police Officer Jennifer Knutson said. “We monitor each other’s radio traffic and, when needed, we respond to campus, and they have been ready and willing to help us out when necessary.”
Other University of Wisconsin schools with similar enrollment numbers, such as UW-Platteville and UW-Green Bay, have sworn police officers on their staff, according to their Web sites. Currently only Public Safety Director Richard Trende and Public Safety Officer Dave Kuether are the only sworn police officers on the UWRF Public Safety staff.
"At one time there were police officers [on staff] when I first started back in the 80s," Public Safety Officer Towberman said.
Administrators on campus are looking into getting more sworn police officers onto the force. Public Safety Director Richard Trende is currently putting together a proposal that would outline the costs and benefits of having sworn police officers on staff, Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance Mary Halada said.
"I would like to see [the hiring of police officers] happen gradually," Trende said.
The Public Safety Department is staffed 24 hours to provide coverage to the campus community, often times by an average of only one officer per shift.
"Were mandated to provide coverage 24 hours a day seven days a week; it's very difficult to accomplish that [with only five full-time officers]," Trende said. "I think when your looking at Public Safety we provide a service and we need to determine what level of service the community wants."