Eau Claire's men and women in blue wear many different hats - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Eau Claire's men and women in blue wear many different hats


Eau Claire (WQOW) - We see them on the streets but there's more to the job of an Eau Claire's Police Officer. Much more. We're taking a look at the many different jobs they hold, and the training they go through.

These officers are more specialized than you'd expect. There are so many different aspects to preventing and investigating crimes, and the Eau Claire Police Department's one hundred officers wear many hats, and have the training to back it up.

It's a brotherhood that binds. But there's more to Eau Claire's Police force than meets the eye. Policing requires patience, heart, and a lot of dedication.

"Many of our officers, however, do things on top of their normal day-to-day duties," says Public Information Officer, Crisis Negotiation Team and Technical Services member Kyle Roder.

This year, the city will spend roughly $100,000 on training its police force. That's about $1,000 per officer.

"You just try and understand but you kind of come to the understanding that bad things will happen. And a lot of times it's out of your hands," says Sgt. Aaron Jensen, with the Crash Reconstruction Team and the Police Training Officer Program.

One of the department's busiest divisions is the 20-person detective division.

"Detectives supervisors review some 14,000 cases throughout the year and then prioritize and assign those cases for follow and investigation," says Deputy Chief of Detectives Jerry Staniszewski.

1,700 of those cases are handed off to detectives in one of six sections: the drug unit, the financial crimes unit, the sensitive crimes unit, computer forensics, school liaison detectives, and the general crimes unit.

"Detectives become proficient in a specific type of crime and receive specialized training to help them with that particular crime," Staniszewski says.

On average, detectives have between 15 and 20 cases assigned to them at any one time.

"So unlike the movies where detectives are assigned one case and you'll see them work that too for a month, detectives are actually working on multiple cases at any given time," says Staniszewski.

But unlike some other law enforcement agencies, officers don't spend their careers in the detectives division.

They will work up to five years and then they'll be transferred back out to a division within the police department," Staniszewski says. "What that does is it enables that specialty or that skill to be put back out on the street so our officers on the street have a combination of skills

Of the Eau Claire Police Department's officers and detectives also fill 180 additional positions on several specialty units within the department.

That means a lot of officers pull double, triple, and even quadruple duty.

"Patrol Sergeant, that's primary role, coordinator for the crash recon team, I'm also a supervisor in the field training, police training," says Sgt. Aaron Jensen.

"I am involved with the Police Honor Guard, I'm also involved with the Crisis Negotiation Team and I'm also the coordinator of the Gang Intelligence Unit," says Officer Tim Porn, describing his roles within the department.

For the five members of the Crash Reconstruction Team, putting the pieces together is what they do best. They go through weeks of intensive training, and have technological tools to help out.

"This is the Tremble S3 Total Station. This is what we use to collect all the data points," says Crash Reconstruction Team member Officer Garrett Lewis. "Anything crash related, like gouges, tire marks, final rest of vehicles, people that were on the scene, that sort of thing, and we basically draw a diagram based on those points."

"It's going to be used as part of the case, and in some cases it could boil down to the diagram making or breaking a case in terms of successful prosecution," Sgt. Jensen says.

Hours after a recent hit and run accident on Seymour Road left a man with serious injuries, the crash reconstruction team was still marking and mapping evidence.

"The whole process to do one map… days. There can be several trips out to the scene, there can be hours and hours behind the computer drawing it out," Officer Lewis says.

This team also works closely with the department's 24 person Crime Scene Unit, gathering and analyzing evidence, DNA, and figuring out who should be behind bars.

The Crisis Negotiation Team's 13 officers are trained to use their words wisely.

"It definitely is a very stressful situation when you're trying to negotiate with somebody who is suicidal or who has intentions of harming somebody else, so it's good to have the right person, the right person for that job to kind of take that role," says Officer Andy Wise, with the Crisis Negotiation Team, the Police Training Officer Program and a Safety Education Officer.

The Technical Services Unit is responsible for keeping an eye on criminal behavior.

"Our technical services unit is responsible for putting up surveillance in areas and tracking if somebody's committing a theft in a business or causing damage at one of our parks," says Officer Roder, with the Technical Services Unit.

The eleven members of the Gang Intelligence Unit keep a close watch on gang activity in the area.

The drug trade is synonymous with gang activity, not always, but they do go hand in hand in a lot of respects, so that has a tendency to draw those individuals to our area, however, we do manage the situation pretty well and can say that it's not what it can be," says Gang Intelligence Unit Leader Officer Tim Porn. "We do have Gangster Disciples which is commonly from the Chicago area... Vice Lords, Black Peastones, those types of things, we do have representations from Latin Kings in the area, we do have representations of the Outlaw Motorcycle Club in our area, and we also do have representation of Asian gangs in our area."

There are also officers who keep the department's necessary tools up to date, and working properly.

"All the squad rifles, all the shotguns, all the tactical weapons, and then the Glocks that we carry," Armorer and Patrol Sgt. Bill Slaggie says, as he takes apart one of the departments handguns.

And there are 12 officers who are perhaps the best dressed.

"They see us in cars, they see us maybe arresting people or directing traffic or things like that, but this is a whole different part," says Sgt. Gary Axness, with the Honor Guard.

The Honor Guard goes to police officers funerals across the country, and special ceremonies, to represent the city.

"It's a close-knit family within the department, and then department to department, it's like an extended family that you would want to go and pay your respects," Sgt. Axness says. "Today we're here for the Chippewa Valley Law Enforcement class, graduating class and one of our officers for the department, a new officer was in this class."

And the cycle continues, with the newest on the force now getting a chance to make a difference.

"Our community members should feel fortunate that we have a highly trained police department," says Officer Roder.

An important thing to note is that these officers who are on the specialty teams, like the crash reconstruction team, don't get paid any more to have that special training. 


If you missed Sunday night's "To Serve, Protect and a Whole Lot More", click here.

Join WQOW News 18 and the Eau Claire Police Department on Tuesday, May 14th for a special film honoring law enforcement officers.  This is National Police Week in which we honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.  In conjunction with that, a documentary called, "Heroes Behind the Badge" will be shown in Eau Claire for one night only.  One hundred percent of ticket sales will be donated to law enforcement memorial funds.

Here are details you need to know:  the film, which tells the stories of several officers who were killed, or almost lost their life in the line of duty, will be shown tomorrow night at Micon Cinemas in Eau Claire at 7 p.m.  Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. That includes a cookout dinner sponsored by Festival Foods, which begins at 5 p.m.





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