La Crosse Introduces Privately Funded Community Police Officer

Mayo Health System-Franciscan Healthcare, Viterbo University Sponsor Program


La Crosse is developing a new community policing program, with one of its officers paid for privately – a funding model that’s new to Wisconsin.

La Crosse’s two new community police officers have an office in a former residential home in central La Crosse. From there, they’ll patrol their beat by foot and bike. With community policing, the officers will focus more on building neighborhood relationships rather than responding to calls all over town.

The city’s tight budget has prevented the switch, until now. Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare and Viterbo University will fund one of the officers, splitting the $75,000 annual cost for three years. The seed money gives the city time to find funding.

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Peter Hughes, the health system’s vice president of regional business development and marketing, said the officers’ presence will strengthen their neighborhood.

“It provides increased safety, security for our employees, our patients and their families, Viterbo University and their students, the residents, the neighborhoods,” said Hughes. “It’s just a win-win. We thought it made a lot of sense.”

La Crosse Police Chief Ron Tischer says Mayo and Viterbo won’t be getting special treatment from the officers.

“Although there is that partnership, they still take their direction from the police department,” said Tischer. “We’ll work with anyone in the neighborhood, not just Mayo and Viterbo. We’re just fortunate that those two entities stepped up and were able to help us out.”

According to the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, the number of police officers in the state has dropped over the last five years because of funding issues. Executive Director Jim Palmer said privately funding public safety could become a trend.