The La Crosse Police Neighborhood Resource Officer program began in 2014 as a new and innovative way for the department to connect with the community and engage with people in a way the typical police patrolling could not. Since then, the program has grown. Now there are six Neighborhood Resource Officers focusing on three different neighborhoods in La Crosse.
WXOW went on the beat with these officers to feature what their jobs are like on a daily basis.
Officers Joel Miller and Alex Burg are the most recent addition to the 6 person team. Miller and Burg started patrolling downtown La Crosse in April. Their primary goal is to build relationships in the downtown community. They spend a lot of their time with La Crosse's homeless population, stopping by Cameron Park and Tent City several times a week.
"They're concerned about our safety and well being, as well. And we respect that, because it makes us feel a little more secure," Alvin Hughes a former homeless veteran said.
The officers form personal relationships and are working to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community. But, it's not just about making friendships, it's about safety and preventing crime downtown.
"Most of the reason for us having presence down here is so that people are aware we're here so they feel safer, and also, people who might otherwise be committing crimes or are up to know good see us and realize they can't just get away with everything," Miller said.
Part of patrolling downtown means checking in with downtown business owners. Miller and Burg stop into local businesses daily.
"You can't ask for anything more from your community resource officers, they're in every week having a cupcake..... they just, they make us feel super comfortable being downtown," Addie Tourville, owner of Addiecakes said.
"It's just been a really great relationship, to get to know them and know that they are a part of the downtown community. You know them by first name and you can just count on them for whatever you need," Kathy Bauer, owner of Cabin Coffee added.
Their work is changing perceptions when it come to policing.
"You know how some people are hesitant to talk to police, for whatever reason? Since we have all these contacts, people are more than willing to talk to us," Burg said.
While their commitment to downtown benefits the department, it also leaves a long term impression that goes deeper than the average community policing.