The desire to make a difference was a central theme Thursday as newly pinned University of Wisconsin Oshkosh police chief Chris Tarmann spoke of the calling he and fellow officers have to serve their communities.
“As members of the UWO police department, we are entrusted with a unique privilege—the opportunity to make a profound impact on the lives of those we serve,” Tarmann said at an oath of office ceremony before a group of family, friends and employees at Culver Family Welcome Center on the University’s Oshkosh campus, where he officially became the chief of police.
“Every moment we spend in our roles carries significance. From the simplest interactions to the most complex situation, each encounter provides us with the chance to make a difference. It is through the unwavering commitment to excellence in these moments that you get to build your legacy.”
Tarmann was hired as a UWO police officer in 2008 and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in 2011. He was appointed acting police chief in June 2022, as Chief Kurt Leibold was appointed to another leadership role on campus.
After graduating from the criminal justice program at Fox Valley Technical College in 2005, Tarmann worked at several agencies before coming to UWO. He completed his bachelor’s degree in human services at UWO in 2014 and graduated in 2021 from the Wisconsin Command College—an in-residence, six-week nationally accredited leadership and development training program.
Tarmann expressed gratitude for the opportunity before him. His mother came forward to pin his new chief’s badge on his uniform and his wife and children were among those on hand to witness the moment.
As part of the ceremony, Tarmann welcomed new officers Darius Banks, Montana Stelter and Noah Yeck. The three took an oath of office before their own pinning. A fourth new UWO officer, Nolan Sell, was in training at the Recruit Academy and will be recognized at a ceremony in April.
Banks, the newest officer, began in October and is scheduled to begin the five-month recruit academy in January. Stelter began with UWOPD in October 2022 and attended the academy several months later. She completed the internal police training program and is working as an officer. Yeck began in November 2022 and was hired after completing the recruit academy. He, too, has completed the internal police training program and is working as an officer.
Outgoing Chief Leibold said he was in a unique situation swearing in the new chief because he is not leaving—he serves as UWO’s vice chancellor for University Affairs.
Leibold recalled his arrival eight years ago as newly hired chief of the UWO Police Department, after 26 years with the Milwaukee Police Department. At the time, Tarmann was serving as interim chief.
“What struck me the most about Chris was the pride he had for this organization and for UWO and his unwavering desire to protect and keep this campus safe,” Leibold recalled.
He spoke of how Tarmann’s efforts have transcended the jurisdiction of the campus and have rippled across the state and nation.
“Through his work in officer wellness (developing an app listing mental health services for law enforcement), Special Olympics, active shooter training and the opioid epidemic; not only have there been significant impacts on these important issues but has also shone a positive light on this University and police department.,” Leibold said, adding he feels very confident leaving the department in Tarmann’s hands.
Thursday’s oath of office ceremony included recognition for new UWO police department employees Carly Lilek, dispatcher; and Scotty Siefert, parking officer; as well as the promotions of Allie Van Asten to dispatch and records supervisors and Matt Roe to police sergeant; as well as retiring employees Mike Bartlein, detective sergeant; and Dana Hartel, parking administrator; who will leave their long-served roles in January.
Tarmann said he appreciates the committed UWOPD team, adding that they make the job “worth every moment.”
He vowed, in his role as chief, to be the best person he can be, to always listen, to maintain accountability and ensure a strong vision for the future.
He told those in attendance that there are significant stresses and risks, but also great rewards with a policing career.
“The role of a police officer is one of the highest honors one can hold in our society,” he said. “It is a role that requires us to be the guardians of peace, protectors of justice and beacons of hope for those who may not have anyone left to give them hope.”