New university police chief Spetz realizes a childhood dream

By University Communications
April 4, 2017
Jason Spetz, right, is congratulated by Chancellor Bob Meyer Monday, March 27, after taking the oath of office as the new police chief at UW-Stout. In the background is a portrait of James Huff Stout, the university’s founder.

Photo: Jason Spetz, right, is congratulated by Chancellor Bob Meyer Monday,
March 27, after taking the oath of office as the new police chief at UW-Stout.
In the background is a portrait of James Huff Stout, the university’s founder.

In eighth grade in Minnesota, Jason Spetz wrote an essay about why he wanted to be a police officer when he grew up. Lots of children want to be police officers and firefighters, he noted recently, “but I followed through on it.”

On Monday, March 27, Spetz took the oath of office as just the second sworn police chief in the history of University of Wisconsin-Stout, succeeding Lisa Walter, who was chief from 1999 to January 2017. Spetz, a UW-Stout police employee since May 2008, has served as interim chief.

“My number one priority is ensuring the safety of everyone on campus,” Spetz said. “This is probably something that goes without saying, but at the end of the day it’s something that now rests on my shoulders. It is a huge responsibility that will weigh in on the majority of the decisions I make throughout the rest of my career.”

Spetz is a graduate of Minnesota State University-Mankato with a Bachelor of Science degree in law enforcement. He also graduated in March 2016 from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va.

His long career in law enforcement and public service began at Mankato, where he served as a patrol officer and EMT for the college. Spetz worked for the Wisconsin State Patrol from July 1996 to March 2005, but he also was involved with the Baldwin rescue and fire departments. That led to a nearly six-year career with the Menomonie Fire Department as a firefighter and EMT.

Jason SpetzSpetz said he enjoyed his time as a firefighter. “It’s a public service type of job,” he said.“You always get to be the good guy.”

But it became clear, he said, that his heart really was in law enforcement; Spetz worked part-time for the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department while at the Fire Department. In 2008 he was given the opportunity to join the campus police department as a limited-term employee, which turned into a full-time patrol officer position and then a series of supervisory roles.

“You feel like you can make a difference” serving for a campus police department, Spetz said, noting the “tight knit community” that exists at UW-Stout.

One of the downsides of becoming a police supervisor and now chief, he said, is that the administrative demands take away from the time he can spend on campus getting to know students, faculty and staff.

Spetz said he goes to every graduation ceremony and invariably runs into students he has interacted with during their time on campus.“We can influence in a positive way the lives of these kids,” Spetz said. “I wouldn’t miss that (ceremony).”

Even though Spetz knows he will be office-bound more as chief, “I still want to be engaged in the community,” as well as work with the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

Spetz said Walter left the department in great shape, but his immediate goals include filling two full-time positions that are open. One of the longer-term goals involves the parking division, which also falls under Spetz’s purview.

“We are a little old-school in how we do business,” he said. “There are a lot of ways we can automate the services we provide, thus providing a better customer experience.”

Spetz said he also wants to concentrate on addressing ongoing concerns with alcohol and other drug abuse; because of his position, he is a member of the Chancellor’s Coalition on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse.

“I want to be a little more proactive (on AODA issues) on this end,” Spetz said.

Spetz also said he believes there is agreement to allow him and other officers some time to speak to all freshmen during fall orientation on various issues, including the need to stay safe and ensuring their companions are safe as well.“We understand the issues they are dealing with,” Spetz added.

Phil Lyons, vice chancellor for Administrative and Student Life Services, said Spetz stood out among the other finalists because of his experience and close connections on campus.

“Jason will do a great job building on the already excellent reputation of our campus police department and parking services,” Lyons said. “We are lucky to have an experienced leader like Jason ready to take over the department.”

Spetz said he is excited about the opportunities and the challenges that lie ahead: “You have the chance to make a positive difference on this campus.”



Bottom Photo: Jason Spetz