By: UWPD Officer Jeff Kirchman
When you think of a police officer, what comes to mind? Uniform, badge, Batman Utility Belt? This is a common view, and it’s easy to lump all police into a single profile, influenced heavily by what we view in the media and in our own personal experiences.
The same goes for police officers’ duties. You may think police spend all their time writing tickets, breaking up fights, jumping fences, and kicking in doors. In reality, the officer types and their related responsibilities cover a surprisingly wide spectrum.
UWPD employs more than 150 people. Of those, around 70 are certified police officers — with all the same authority as any other Wisconsin police officer. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the types of officers you’ll find at UWPD:
Patrol Officers: Patrol officers are the officers whose duties most closely match those of the stereotypical police officer. UWPD patrol officers conduct regular patrol activities in squad cars, respond to calls for service, help with medical and mental health crises, and do way, way more. Patrol officers are typically the first to show up when someone calls for help in the University community.
Detectives: Detectives begin as patrol officers. With training, experience, and a lot of investigative curiosity, a select few join UWPD’s Investigative Services group. Detectives are assigned to incidents that require more in-depth investigation than a patrol officer may have time for.
Community Officers: A community officer is a police officer dedicated to a particular campus or campus-adjacent community. They focus their efforts on the particular needs of their communities, conducting safety trainings, working on community-specific crime prevention activities, and coordinating with patrol officers and detectives on larger operations that may impact their communities.
Bicycle Officers : Sometimes a squad car isn’t the best tool for the job. In some of those instances, UWPD bicycle officers utilize both conventional and electric bikes to zip around and check out all the nooks and crannies of the campus. They’re also a great low-impact way to check the woods and trails of the Arboretum, the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, and other natural areas.
K9 Officers: UWPD currently has three distinct categories of K9 officers in service: Explosives detection, drug enforcement, and – our newest addition – canine therapy. Their job duties may vary greatly, but the strong bonds built between the human officers and their canine partners are identical.
Mounted Officers: Starting in 2023, look for UWPD officers conducting patrol duties, special event activities, and community engagement work on horseback. They’ll be hard to miss, as they will literally be head and shoulders…and withers…above the crowd.
Marine Officers: UWPD’s role doesn’t end at the shoreline. Working specifically with the University’s Upham Woods facility on the Wisconsin River, marine officers patrol the beaches and woods of the youth environmental education camp. Their role is to keep campers safe and assist boaters and other river enthusiasts when needed.
This is only a small sample of the types of ‘officers’ you’ll find on any given day at UWPD. Others include administrative and supervisory officers, liaison officers, training officers, and many more.
Curious to learn more about the breadth and depth of police roles at UWPD? Sign up here to request a ride-along, and see first-hand (and in the front seat of a squad!) how we work.