Members of southwest Wisconsin’s law enforcement community paid tribute to their own during ceremonies at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College on Thursday, May 12.
First, a tree was dedicated at the College’s Public Safety Office in Fennimore. The tree is in recognition of the fire, emergency medical services and law enforcement personnel that serve and protect the College’s district.
“Public Service is sometimes one of the most difficult and thankless areas of service, until they are called upon to provide safe haven, life-saving measures and protect those in need,” Dean of Health Education and Public Safety Katie Garrity told the crowd gathered. “These brave and dedicated men and women are clearly committed to the communities they serve. They have sacrificed time away from family – birthdays, graduations and holidays – and prioritized the commitment to their profession, their communities, and all those they serve. We owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude.”
Faculty and staff of the College’s Public Safety division donated funds to provide for and dedicate the tree.
“May this tree dedicated on behalf of public safety professionals serve as a daily reminder of those who commit themselves for our well-being 24 hours a day and serve as a small thank you to these brave men and women,” Garrity said.
A second tree, located near the College’s shooting range, was dedicated on behalf of Dan Jacobson, a former Lancaster Police Chief. Jacobson died last December. He was 55.
Southwest Tech Criminal Justice Supervisor Kris Wubben said anyone who knew Jacobson would understand why the tree was planted near the shooting range.
A memorial paying tribute to Grant County Sheriff’s Deputy Thomas Reuter was unveiled in a hall of the College’s Public Safety Office.
Reuter graduated from Platteville High School and became a full-time deputy in 1985. He was on his way home from his 4 p.m.-to-midnight shift March 18, 1990 when he saw what appeared to be a disabled tractor on New California Road west of Wisconsin 80 around 11:25 p.m. As he approached the tractor he was shot and killed.
“When I was asked to give some information and some different ideas for this plaque, I thought what better way to remember him than the academy where he attended,” said Grant County Sheriff Nate Dreckman.
Dreckman told those gathered there have been 35 officers killed this year in the line of duty in Wisconsin.
“Gunfire deaths are up 70 percent from last year. So we can’t ever forget,” he said. “This is a reminder of somebody who gave the ultimate sacrifice and his legacy lives on through his family, that is part of club now.”
Reuter’s son, Dan, is a Grant County Sheriff’s Deputy.
“The tree dedication and memorial tribute on behalf of Deputy Thomas Reuter was inspirational,” said Southwest Tech President Dr. Jason Wood. “I, like the others who participated, was touched by the presentation of the Colors and the words spoken in his memory.”
Shortly after he joined Southwest Tech in 2007, Criminal Justice instructor Tom Kretschman discovered Thomas Reuter was a graduate of the College’s law enforcement academy. With the help of George Dulzo and Wubben, Kretschman established the Deputy Thomas Reuter Memorial Scholarship through the Southwest Tech Foundation. The scholarship is awarded annually to a Southwest Tech Criminal Justice student pursuing certification in the law enforcement academy.
“The death of Deputy [Thomas] Reuter has had an enormous impact on the law enforcement agencies and communities in southwest Wisconsin, and we felt that it was important for our students to understand this event,” Kretschman said.
As Southwest Tech Public Safety Administrative Assistant Tammie Engelke and Kretschman discussed the 25th anniversary of Thomas Reuter’s death approximately a year ago, the planning process to dedicate a memorial on his behalf began.
“It became apparent to us during this process that most of the students in our program were not even born when this event happened,” Kretschman said. “We felt it was vital that our students know and reflect on this event to better understand the risks and expectations of the career path they have chosen.”
Three years ago, the College started a Law Enforcement Memorial Shooting Competition at its shooting range as a fundraiser for the Deputy Thomas Reuter Memorial Scholarship. In the last three years, more than $1,000 has been raised at the event to support scholarships for the College’s law enforcement academy students.
Approximately 55 people and 13 teams competed in last Thursday’s competition. The Southwest Tech Shooting Team finished first, followed by the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Office. The Southwest Tech Criminal Justice Program finished third.
Elias Gill of the Southwest Tech Shooting Team took top honors individually. Tucker Richardson of the Hillsboro Police Department finished second and Steve Sanders of the Richland County Sheriff’s Office finished third.