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Baraboo police to replace experienced community service officer

May 24, 2019

Community Service Officer Allison Goetz said she never expected that earning an animal science degree at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in 1986 would lead her to work at the Baraboo Police Department.

She also never expected to tap into her horse ranching background and use a horse trailer to haul an escaped cow − named Barney − back to a farm while on duty. But that also happened.

Goetz, a Baraboo native who has been a non-sworn officer in Baraboo for about 20 years, will miss a fellow officer who recently retired. But she is looking forward to meeting a new colleague and sharing some insights about the job after the police department hires a new officer.

When community service officers are not responding to animal calls or ensuring chicken coops comply with city ordinances, Baraboo Police Chief Mark Schauf said community service officers have a host of important duties.

These officers enforce parking restrictions, inspect possible invasive plant species and check yards to ensure lawns are mowed and sidewalks are shoveled. They also set up road closure signs during parades or festivals.

“They are very, very busy people during those special events,” said Baraboo Police Department Capt. Rob Sinden.

Goetz estimated about 300 signs have to go up every summer for the Big Top Parade.

Fellow non-sworn community service officer Gordy Ringelstetter − who served Baraboo for 33 years − retired earlier this month. Ringelstetter was a respected member of the department.

“Gordy knew ordinances very, very well,” Goetz said.

Now it’s her turn to show the ropes by passing some lessons along to someone new who might be less familiar with Baraboo’s history.

Schauf said 40 people applied for the position vacated when Ringelstetter retired. He added no matter how fast a learner the officer is, it generally takes about two years to get a true feel for the community.

Starting wages for non-sworn community service officers begin at $17.86 compared to a $25.65 starting wage for sworn patrol officers.

Sinden said it could take between 30 and 45 days for a final candidate to be selected.

Many of the important duties entrusted to community service officers help free up patrol officers’ time so they can enforce other laws, Sinden said.

“I do a lot of oddball things … things that free the other officers up. It’s something different every day,” Goetz said.

She sometimes is called to help catch bats inside residents’ homes. She also recalled an incident in which she helped free a deer from a pile of wood behind a resident’s garage.

A change in the way Goetz does her job since she started in 1999 is increased use of technology and less writing notes down by hand. Documenting more calls with photos and computerized data can save some time between various duties.

Another change is that more wildlife calls — such as deer collisions or other roadkill — are being handled by animal shelter employees, but Goetz is still responsible for various domestic animal issues, with the occasional strange call.

One example could be chasing skunks out of a yard before they cause damage or potentially spread rabies.

Goetz likened the job of a community service officer to always keeping a pulse of the way of life in the community. She said she works closely with residents on almost every task.

Another important aspect of the job is offering directions to tourists and guiding drivers through packed streets during summer months, she said. It’s just one more way to serve the community.

“You’ve got to be a people person to have this job,” Goetz said.

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