Badge of honor
After more than 20 years on campus, university police chief retiring
January 5, 2017
Lisa Walter had never been to Menomonie when
she drove north on Interstate 94 in 1993 to interview for a sergeant’s position
at University of Wisconsin-Stout. If she got the job she certainly didn’t
intend for it to be the last stop in her law enforcement career.
a native of Hartford in southeastern Wisconsin, had grown attached to Milwaukee
while working in the city for the state Department of Transportation Division
of Motor Vehicles. She had worked for the State Capitol Police Department as
well, in Madison and Milwaukee, but wanted to bolster her resume with police
supervisory experience. The sergeant’s position at UW-Stout fit the bill.
full intention was to get supervisory experience somewhere in the state and go
back to Milwaukee,” Walter said recently in her corner office at the UW-Stout
Police Department. “I absolutely love Milwaukee. I still do.”
landed the sergeant’s position, but life doesn’t always work out as planned.
She never did return to Milwaukee to work. On Friday, Jan. 6, Walter will
retire from the campus police department, having served as police chief since
1999, first in an interim position and permanently since 2002.
search is underway to fill the position. Department veteran Jason Spetz will
serve as interim chief.
Walter brought an enormous amount of professionalism, good humor and common
sense to the department,” Chancellor Bob Meyer said. “While she will be
incredibly hard to replace, Lisa is leaving the department in very good shape
and her legacy will continue for a very long time.”
said Walter worked hard to connect the community with the department and
UW-Stout, noting the Run with the Cops event she started to benefit Special
Olympics and other volunteering she has done for Special Olympics and other
organizations. Meyer also said Walter has been omnipresent at all major events
at UW-Stout throughout her career, including homecoming, residence hall Move-in
Day, visits by dignitaries, etc.
certainly has been visible, not only on campus but in the community and the
region,” Meyer said. “She is the epitome of what community policing is all
Walter was instrumental in building an effective working relationship between
our departments,” said Eric Atkinson, chief of the Menomonie Police Department.
“She was transparent in her objectives and was always willing to collaborate on
projects aimed at enhancing public safety.
will miss her enthusiasm and her ability to collaborate with various community
shareholders,” Atkinson continued. “Her ability to connect with students,
staff, faculty and the community was nothing short of exceptional. She is
a role model for not only law enforcement but the community as a whole.”
Taking on changes
said that while she did some research about UW-Stout and the area before
interviewing, the trip to Menomonie was an eye-opener. “When I drove northbound
on I-94 to come up for interview day, I was like, man, this is gorgeous up
here,” Walter said. “This is ‘up north.’ This is where everybody goes for
vacations, for goodness sakes.”
accommodations at the police department, which recently had been separated from
the safety and risk management operation, left a little to be desired, Walter
said.“When I came in, my office was a
table in the squad room. I sort of sat back and said, what did I do?”
the time patrol officers at UW-Stout and most campuses around the U.S. “walked
around during the day with empty (gun) holsters. They weren’t able to take guns
on patrol with them until midnight.”
eventually changed, however, as did many other things for the department once
Walter became established.For the most
part, she said, the capabilities of the campus police and the Menomonie Police
Department now are the same.
responsibility is to do what’s right for the campus and for my officers,”
Walter said. “So I chunked away at these (changes) and took them on as I saw
they would be appropriate and accepted.”
Special campus challenges
capabilities might be the same, but the demands and expectations certainly are
different for a campus police department.
told families at freshman orientation that we are the most diverse and unique
community of 10,000 people in northwestern Wisconsin, other than other campus
communities,” Walter said. “You can’t go to any other community of 10,000 and
have the diversity that we have. That requires a certain kind of officer.”
example, she said, her officers have “to know students and members of our
community,” and she places a premium on “continually learning as a staff
person.” That includes diversity training, she said.
takes good judgment and sometimes a gentle touch when dealing with students,
Walter said. “I tell parents, ‘We will not become mom and dad, but we will
become the cool aunt or uncle who is willing to flick your student on the
forehead when they do stupid stuff,’ ” she said, adding, “and then there are
other people that you’ve got to put the hammer down.”
said it was the ability to get to know the students, faculty, staff and the
public that kept her at UW-Stout.
not good just in a squad car doing traffic,” she said. “I’m not good just
behind the uniform. I am much better when I have that ability to know people
longer term. This was a good connection for me.”
any police career that lasts 23 years is bound to include some tragic events,
and Walter’s time on campus certainly had its share: three students killed in a
house fire, a suicide in a residence hall, a student who died after an
altercation near the Log Jam and, most recently, the death of student Hussain
Saeed Alnahdi in downtown Menomonie.
many of the deaths occurred off campus, university police always is involved in
investigations involving students and any aftermath.
of it is you need a thick skin,” she said, “but part of it is you tend to get
killed with a thousand cuts on this job. Student deaths are the worst, the
added: “You just can’t ever prepare for a face-to-face with a parent who is
never going to see their kid again.You
Setting an example
doesn’t make a big deal of it, but she acknowledges the fact she has been
something of a trail blazer in her profession, where women make up just 15
percent of all law enforcement officers.
started my career with a sheriff who told me right to my face that women don’t
belong in law enforcement,” Walter said. “That was 32 years ago. I still think
women have a ways to go in this profession. When I go to chiefs’ conferences,
I’m one of the very few women and there are very few minorities.
we’ve got a long way to go, but it’s been a heck of a trail to blaze.”
next for Walter? She will continue her volunteer work for organizations like
Special Olympics, but there are no professional plans at present.
going to take a deep breath,” she said. “I may even turn my phone off at
- Graduate of Hartford High School
- Bachelor’s degree from Mount Senario College
- Master’s degree from Metropolitan State
- Graduate of FBI Academy in Quantico, Va.
- Previous experience: Dodge County Sheriff’s
Department, dispatcher and deputy; state Capitol Police Department; state
Division of Motor Vehicles inspector.
- Awards: Richard LaMunyon Law Enforcement
Torch Run for Special Olympics Hall of Fame; Wisconsin Special Olympics Torch
Run Dale Brunner Hall of Fame; Chancellor's Academic Staff of Excellence Award;
Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes “Women of Courage, Confidence and
- Personal: husband, Douglas Johnson;
Chief Lisa Walter retires Jan. 6 from UW-Stout. She has been chief since 1999.
Second: Lisa Walter has fun
with a spectator and the university mascot, Blaze, during the 2016 homecoming
parade in downtown Menomonie.
Bottom: Lisa Walter, right,
participates in a 2015 Run with the Cops event to raise money for Special