The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

“This is a new age of policing”: University Police hire seven new officers

From+left+to+right%3A+Officer+Fleischman%2C+Sergeant+Miller%2C+Officer+Buhler.+
Sophie Miller
From left to right: Officer Fleischman, Sergeant Miller, Officer Buhler.

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Police Department (UPD) has welcomed seven new faces to their department and the campus. The department is now officially fully staffed with 14 sworn officers including Chief Hill, Detective Meyer, three sergeants and nine officers. 

The Racquet Press sat down with Sergeant Nikki Miller (she/her), Officer Malachi Buhler (he/him) and Officer Jake Fleischman (he/him) to learn more about the department and the new officers in it. 

Before coming to UPD, Buhler worked at Sauk County Sheriff’s Department in the jail. He then attended the Jail and Police Academy at Western Technical College (WTC) in La Crosse, WI, where he met Sgt. Miller as an instructor and subsequently got a job with UPD. 

Fleischman graduated from UW-Oshkosh in 2020 with a bachelor’s in environmental science and criminal justice. Fleischman later attended the Police Academy at WTC where he was sponsored by UPD. 

UPD sponsors officers before and during their time at the academy in which they cover the cost of attendance. Officer Fleischman, Officer Taylor Rakes and Officer Moriah Murray, all new to UPD, were sponsored once they had already begun the academy. 

Officer Buhler was UPD’s first sponsor before the academy in which he was employed by UPD before beginning at the academy. UPD is now sponsoring Officer Lauren Harkner as she attends the academy at WTC.

Officers Buhler and Fleischman were asked why they chose to work as an officers at UWL rather than a municipality department. 

Buhler said, “One of the big reasons was Sgt. Miller; everybody that meets Sgt. Miller in the academy always loves her.” 

Fleischman said, “Especially after interviewing and talking to those who worked here, the family atmosphere where anyone will do anything for ya, that kind of attracted me more so.”

Policing on a college campus is a unique experience compared to policing in a municipality. At UWL, UPD is primarily working with 4,000 students ages 18-22 all within a few blocks radius. UPD has a frequent presence within the residence halls, academic buildings and the streets and sidewalks of UWL’s campus. Subsequently, policing on a college campus can present unique challenges. 

“This is a very fun environment to work in. Unfortunately in this day and age, we’re starting to see the same critical calls for service as municipalities and sheriff offices,” said Sgt. Miller. 

Officers Buhler and Fleischman spoke on what they were expecting to be the most challenging aspects of policing on a college campus. 

Officer Buhler said “Definitely learning the unique circumstances that you encounter on campus, whether that be student interactions inside the dorm halls or with campus staff, or dealing with certain laws that we’re only able to enforce like Chapter 18 violations and such”

“I just think the population you’re working with…being almost the same age as the students, seeing are they going to respect you,” said Officer Fleischman. 

Sgt. Miller, who has worked as a sergeant at UPD since 2011, said, “Being able to take your time and work calls and have that positive student/officer interaction is something that is unique to this environment versus a municipality or sheriff’s office.” 

“We all choose to work in this environment because we want to establish those relationships, we want to make a difference. Not every contact is going to be positive, some are going to be negative, but out of the negative can come a positive,” said Sgt. Miller. 

Law enforcement, as a system, has received nationwide backlash following the murder of George Floyd in May of 2020. A majority of the American public are calling for major changes to the system of policing and law enforcement. 

“Law enforcement has always had peaks and valleys. We’ve always peaked and been the heroes and we’ve dipped and been the most hated people on earth. It’s a constant up-and-down battle,” said Sgt. Miller. 

“We are a sample of the population we serve. So not every person that becomes a police officer is going to be a great person. People have to understand we’re all people too and we’re a sample of the community we serve,” said Sgt. Miller. 

She continued, “But the unique thing about us is, we like to train our guys and gals. We want that professional development, we want that progression so that when they’re going for calls of service they can exercise empathy, put themselves in someone’s shoes to understand what they’re going through. A lot of times, the way you talk to and deal with people sets the precedent of how they feel about people and police departments.”

“Some of the difficulties working as a police officer are that we can’t control the national narrative or what people have had experience with. We can only show them what the experience is going to be like here with us,” said Sgt. Miller.  

UPD’s mission statement is as follows: “Our mission is to serve the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and the surrounding community where education can thrive by upholding the constitution, the community, and the agency we serve.  We also support the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s academic research and public service missions with professionalism, integrity, and impartiality.”

“This is a new age of policing and we’re trying to show that we actually care,” said Officer Buhler. 

For more information on the new members of UPD, please visit https://www.uwlax.edu/police/about-uwl-police-department/our-people/.

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About the Contributor
Sophie Miller, Social Justice Reporter
  • Year at UWL: Senior
  • PGPs: She/Her/Hers
  • Hometown: Prairie du Chien, WI
  • Major: Dual Major in Political Science & Communication Studies with a Public Communication and Advocacy Emphasis
  • Minor: Social Justice Minor
  • Other Campus Involvement: Intern in the Financial Aid Office
  • Future Plans after Graduation: Attend Graduate School
  • Favorite activity in La Crosse: Going to Pettibone Beach
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