Police can seem elusive and maybe even scary, especially in today’s world. However, when I sat down with Chief of Police and Director of Parking Services, Tony Babl, we set out to break that stereotype and reiterate the departments mission which is:
“Police and Security Services is committed to providing University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point students, faculty and staff with a safe and secure environment in which to live, work and study. We protect and serve those who will change the world.”
The University of Police and Security is here for all of our students, faculty, staff and community members. They are here to serve and protect, in whatever capacity that may mean for you. Please feel free to stop by the department to learn more or check out their website. If you find yourself so lucky, you may even meet them at one of their many, “Get to Know Us” events on campus where there is usually a free doughnut or two.
What school did you attend and what degree did you earn?
I grew up in the Wausau area. I attended UW-Platteville and earned a bachelor’s in criminal justice and a minor in psychology. From there I went on to Police Recruit Academy at the Fox Valley Technical College. I was hired by the Stevens Point Police Department, and while working there I earned a CPM-certified public manager certificate through UW-Madison.
Tell us about your career in law enforcement.
After college, I started at Stevens Point police department in 1993. I began as a patrol officer for several years before becoming the school liaison officer for Stevens Point Area Senior High (SPASH). I really enjoyed this experience, and I relate it in many ways to my position here now, working with students, parents and teachers.
Most of my career I have spent in the detective bureau, first as a sensitive crimes detective investigating sexual assault, child abuse and deaths. Later I was promoted as the supervisor for the detective bureau. During my time at Stevens Point Police Department I also served on the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team for 21 years eventually becoming the SWAT commander.
I’ve had the opportunity to serve in several roles as a police officer including: bike patrol, motorcycle patrol, community resource sergeant supervising the parking services, community service officers and an auxiliary officer program. Finally, I was assistant chief for a short time before accepting position as UW-Stevens Point (UWSP) chief in April 2018 beginning a new chapter in my career. I have been with the university for just over a year now, and plan to retire here at some point in the far distant future.
What is a typical work day for you?
Mostly meetings. I start every day with a meeting with my staff to ensure that I am listening to their ideas and concerns. I want to make sure my employees have the tools they need to best serve the campus. From there I bounce to more meetings because our line of work affects every single person on campus, I try to attend as many meetings as possible and interact with as many people as I can to hear their concerns and learn what we can do to help.
What are the tools of the trade that you use the most?
An officers most valuable tool is their mind. They need to be able to make split second decisions on how to appropriately react to a situation that are based on their training and experience. Officers also need the ability to communicate well with everyone they have contact with. How an officer talks with someone dramatically determines the outcome of the incident.
What are some of your professional goals for the department in the future?
I have many goals for the UW-Stevens Point police department. Increasing the capabilities of our department to secure and safeguard campus through training, education and equipment. We are also working on training not just for our officers, but education for students, faculty, and staff in topics such as active shooter response, drug and alcohol abuse, interpersonal violence prevention and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). We have a newly created program involving Tucker, a therapy dog in training, that we are excited to work with in the future with students. We are continuously working on making positive contacts between all students and community members.
How can the reality of a career in law enforcement differ from typical expectations?
It is certainly not like on TV and movies. For every small amount of action, there typically involves hours of investigation and paperwork. There is not as much excitement as some people may think, but we must always be prepared for emergencies when they happen and focus on prevention. Law enforcement is a very satisfying career where you can truly make a difference in peoples lives. You must really go into this field for the right reasons, it’s not about how many people’s day you can ruin, it is about working together to solve problems that affect everyone.
Do you guys like doughnuts? What is your go- to?
I love doughnuts every once in a while. However, in order to do our job to the best of our ability, we do need to stay fit. Our department makes sure that we are putting the right things into our body and exercising to help serve our campus better. We need to be able to do our job. However, if I do get a doughnut, it’s definitely one with peanuts on top.
What happens when you go to a blue phone?
Blue phones, red phones and elevator phones on campus are connected directly to the campus police at any time or day or night. The police dispatcher at the other end will talk to you directly, determine the emergency and dispatch officers.
What is your number one tip regarding people’s online safety?
Don’t trust anything online—if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be skeptical about email offers, requests for money and people wanting to meet you. Don’t post or give out personal information. Be smart.
What resources do we have for sexual assault victims on campus?
We have many resources on campus and ways to report sexual assaults. It’s important to know that you can report directly to the police department. Many people are scared to involve police, and take it to “the next level.” We will work with victims to provide the proper support. By reporting, it doesn’t have to mean you are pressing charges or we are going to go immediately arrest anyone. Regardless of if you come in a week or even six months later, we can help. The other resources we have on campus are though sexual assault victim services (SAVS) or by reporting it to the office of the dean of students, which can be anonymous. I really do urge people to come in and report something, because you may not the only one. We have a better chance at helping you if you report it to someone.
What should I do if I lost my purse or wallet at a campus event?
Contact campus police! We have a lost and found here that acquires many keys, wallets and ID’s. If you have not found your belongings reasonably quickly, I suggest cancelling any credit cards.
Does the university offer any self-defense classes?
For liability reasons, the campus police doesn’t. However, there are many martial arts studios in the area that do offer self-defense classes for both women and men.
Bicycle theft is a problem on college campuses. How does UWSP deal with this and what suggestions do you have for students?
- Register your bicycle with city of Stevens Point so when do find your bike we can get it back to you.
- Lock up your bicycle.
- Report it to the police.
Personally, I keep a log of all of my more valuable property and write down serial numbers and have descriptions and even some pictures. This helps if it were to ever get stolen and also for insurance purposes. If we do find a bike, we will hold it here at the department and after a certain amount of time will give them to the campus surplus store where it will be sold.
Facebook and Instagram have a “check-in” feature. Do you advise against using this as to not tip off anyone that your home will be vacant?
Personally, I don’t use it. I understand why people use it when on vacation and such, but it really depends on if you are concerned about someone stealing something. If you’re concerned, I recommend that people do not post vacation pictures until you are back home.
What are some new changes?
We have had many new changes in the past year including new hires, policy updates and equipment. We have two new sergeants, Sgt. Ted Wanta and Sgt. Trina James who are both very experienced and skilled officers. We also now have Jeni Lutz, who is a very experienced police records manager. We have continued fostering our relationships with other agencies and resources in the area and we have agreements in place with Stevens Point police, Plover police, and Portage County sheriff including recently being deputized. We are currently working on partnerships with the public school district and being represented among more area resource teams such as Sexual Assault response team (SART) and Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART) to name a few.