Fresh Portage police officer discovered law enforcement passion by accident

May 2, 2019

Joshua Troth’s career path wasn’t mapped out for him like the textbooks he studied in college. He sought to forge his own path in life through persistence, instinct and mutual respect.

Even before he was sworn in as its newest officer Monday, he said the Portage Police Department treated him as one of their own.

Troth previously served as a Wisconsin State Patrol trooper assigned to a district that included Portage. In 2018 he earned a life-saving award after he and multiple other first responders rescued a woman from the Wisconsin River.

Troth recounted the woman clinging to a tree as officers threw her a rope. He remembered acting on instinct when he drove past Pauquette Park and jumped into the water to help. No one could touch the bottom of the river with their feet. He said his efforts to stay fit for an annual Ironman Triathlon prepared him physically for the incident.

The Portage Police Department’s command staff invited Troth into the station afterward to debrief.

“They stood by my side and treated me as one of their own,” Troth said. “It showed me they cared. They have their officers’ backs.”

Portage Police Chief Ken Manthey said he’s excited to have Troth on board as the department fills its remaining vacant positions.

“He’s a quick learner,” Manthey said. “We’re just very impressed with his willingness to help out.”

Troth replaces a role vacated by Pete Warning, who recently took the position of School Resource Officer.

The last open position may be filled by the end of May or the first week of June, Manthey said. A conditional job offer will be extended to a man who graduates from a police academy May 24.

If this candidate accepts the offer in Portage instead of another agency, Manthey said the department will be fully staffed for the first time in several years.

While Troth said he’s grateful for five years of service at the State Patrol, it was time to try something new as he felt a calling to branch out more into community police work.

“It was an easy choice. I felt very welcome when I came here,” Troth said.

Military history

Troth is one of several military veterans who work for the Portage Police Department. That sense of camaraderie carries over into policing and helps officers relate to one another, he said.

After he completes 10 weeks of training, Troth said he likely will be paired on duty with officer Heather Medina − a fellow Iraq War veteran who was hired in January.

Many of Troth’s family members also served in the military. He grew up in California, and after moving to Minnesota in 1993 to care for his ill grandmother, he then enlisted in the U.S. Army.

After six years of service, Troth earned an honorable discharge and studied geography and earth science at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse while supporting two children.

He later moved south and found contract work with the Lower Mississippi Conservation Committee.

It was tough to compete with people who had maste’s degrees or doctorate qualifications. He had applied for more than 200 jobs and had only five phone interviews. He said he’s never been one to feel sorry for himself, so he remained persistent.

Then the Great Recession hit, and Troth was out of work.

Accidental officer

Troth said although he never intended to be a police officer growing up, he has come to enjoy the role.

“I never wanted to be a cop. In a sense, it found me,” Troth said.

About a decade ago, he needed to find work quickly after the economy tanked.

He accepted a job as a Department of Corrections officer − first in Green Bay and then in New Lisbon. Those roles solidified his lifelong belief that all people deserve to be treated as human beings and with respect, including inmates, he said.

While serving in the State Patrol, Troth said he instilled this philosophy into new recruits, telling them to sit down and chat with people regardless of their past, because it could positively affect the outcome of various incidents law enforcement officers respond to.

The shift in intensity can rise and fall at a moment’s notice like a roller coaster, he said. One minute, officers might be conducting a welfare check. The next call could be for domestic violence.

Troth said he’s thankful for community leaders and taxpayers for giving him a chance to serve the city of Portage more closely as a patrol officer.

“They can teach me at the same time,” Troth said. “They opened their door for me.”