La Crosse Police hope building new brand will improve community relations, recruitment

The department launched a new brand strategy as part of strategic plan to improve community engagement, continue work on transparency

A body camera is clipped onto the pocket of a police officer's uniform.
A Wauwatosa police officer wears a body camera while working Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Angela Major/WPR

As the La Crosse Police Department mapped out a new strategic plan last year, Chief Shawn Kudron said officials wanted to focus on better communicating the department’s priorities with residents and potential recruits.

That’s why they hired a marketing company to build a new branding and marketing strategy for the department. La Crosse Police launched their new brand and a five-year strategic plan at an event Tuesday.

Police Chief Shawn Kudron smiles in front of banner with his department's new brand
La Crosse Police Chief Shawn Kudron announced his department’s new brand strategy at La Crosse City Hall on Tuesday, July 18, 2023. Hope Kirwan/WPR

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“We know that departments across the state and across the upper Midwest, as well as the nation, are challenged in recruiting,” Kudron told reporters at the event. “We are in that same boat. But we believe that this branding effort is going to be helpful. We want people to understand and know what it means to serve this community and what it means to work in this department.”

Kudron said clearly articulating the agency’s values and goals will also help them build new relationships in the community. He sees it as the next step forward in embracing transparency within the agency. It’s an effort Kudron said they’ve been focused on since nationwide social justice protests in 2020 sparked new scrutiny around policing

“It’s important for our community to know that this is important to us to better understand how we can impact the community in a positive way,” Kudron said.

La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds said he thinks it’s important to recognize there’s “a microscope” on policing policies across the United States. Reynolds said that makes now the right time to focus on the La Crosse department’s brand.

“We need to really work at making certain the community knows that we are here for them, the police department is here for them, to help them,” Reynolds said. “That’s what I think this five-year strategic plan and the brand as a vehicle helps get across.”

The Wisconsin Professional Police Association has conducted a statewide poll on public opinion of police for 10 years. The organization reported the latest survey from 2022 “strongly suggests” that public support for law enforcement is rebounding after a two-year dip during nationwide protests and COVID-19. The poll found 77 percent of those surveyed approve of the way their local police force is handling its job.

Kudron said both marketing agency Metre and Scott Dickmeyer, an associate professor of communication studies at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, surveyed community stakeholders about the La Crosse Police Department’s strengths and weaknesses. He said officers received praise for being problem solvers in the community, but there was also a strong call to improve community relationships.

“Not just enforcement, but also looking at why relationships can equal safety,” he said. “When we talk about wanting to have a safe and vibrant community, that is not just work that the police department does, that’s work that we all do as a community. But we have to have a good relationship with each other to achieve those goals.”