FOX CITIES, Wis.(WFRV)- When policing a Town or City, the demographic is very important in how the Police Agency handles the community. It’s called community-oriented policing and is defined as a strategy of policing that focuses on developing relationships with community members.
“Grand Chute is unique. We have a residential population of about 23,000 people, however, we have so many different draws to the community,” said Officer Travis Waas. Waas has been with the department for seven years.
“Prior to the pandemic in 2019, we had over 70 different organized community outreach events that our officers were participating in,” said Waas. Because of the pandemic, most of those events were canceled or went virtual. During that time, we saw a number of high-profile incidents involving police. One of them involved the Fox River Mall shooting in January, which left one man dead and another injured. Officer Waas was at the forefront of the investigation and information sharing. “I think the biggest takeaway was communication and making sure there is a clear line for the different agencies,” said Waas. Over 30 agencies from surrounding areas responded to the incident, which at the time was thought to be an active shooter situation. Not all departments were on the same radio frequency, which made communication somewhat of a challenge. “When we have agencies coming from other counties, state patrol as well, they don’t necessarily go through our Dispatch Center,” said Waas.
“Community-oriented policing is actually taking the step in the direction of working with your community, being one-on-one with the community,” said Officer Stu Zueles. Zueles has been with the Neenah Police Department for over 20-years. He says his Department takes community police very serious. “We want the public to trust us, that what we say is golden and what we say is what we mean,” said Zueles. A critical component to community police is transparency. There are a number of outreach programs for youth, the Department is involved in. “The choices program talks to kids about the dangers of social media. They also talk about drugs and alcohol and making good choices,” said Zueles.
The Grand Chute Police Department also has a junior academy, for students in grades 3-5. Additionally, there is a citizen’s academy, which provides a glimpse into the day of a law enforcement officer through tours, presentations, and many interactive activities. The Academy was created to provide a working knowledge of the policies, procedures and personnel of the Police Department to the citizens of the community.
For Law Enforcement, there is no such thing as a “routine traffic stop.” Local 5’s Eric Richards got a first-hand look at a traffic stop scenario from the police perspective on what you should and shouldn’t do when an Officer pulls you over. “We never know, something that could be just a normal expired license plate traffic stop, can turn into a high-speed pursuit,” said Lieutenant John Kuffel. Kuffel says the best thing for all motorists to do is stay calm and comply. “Keep your hands visible, and comply with the Officer’s requests. It will make things easier and get you on your way faster,” said Kuffel.
Most Departments are taking steps towards reform, in light of incidents involving police across the Country. For Grand Chute and Neenah, they say they will remain community-oriented as stakeholders in their communities. Now that in-person events are returning, more Officers will be out and about meeting with members of the community. A huge nationwide event called “National Night Out” will be held on August 3rd. To find out if your city or town is participating, click here.