Hardel running for re-election
By Robert Cloud
When Waupaca County Sheriff Brad Hardel first ran for office in 2006 he was motivated by a long list of goals.
While he has achieved many of those goals, Hardel wants at least one more term to complete the work he began a dozen years ago.
One of his top goals has been to increase the number of officers in the department.
“When I took office we were ranked No. 68 for the ratio of officers per 1,000 capita,” Hardel said. “There were only three counties worse than us.”
Hardel said the municipalities in Waupaca County average two officers per 1,000 residents, while the county averages 0.9 officers per 1,000.
Since taking office, Hardel has managed to grow the force to 1.02 officers per 1,000.
His goal is to increase the department to 1.5 officers per 1,000 county residents.
“In 12 years, we’ve asked for those people but budget restraints have really hurt us,” Hardel said.
As sheriff, Hardel has added a communications captain, two communications supervisors, two drug officers, 24-hour coverage with patrol sergeants, one more patrol officer and one more detective.
He has also developed three full-time K9 teams.
“One of my goals was to get a K9 unit,” Hardel said. “We run the program off donations.”
He and other county officers began raising funds in 2007 and before the end of the year they received enough donations for two dogs. A third dog was brought on in 2012.
Hardel has presented the county with a five-year plan to continue expanding the force.
He wants to add two patrol officers per year for the next five years, plus two dispatchers, two recreation officers who focus on water, snowmobile and ATV patrol, two dispatchers, an evidence custodian, a patrol lieutenant and others.
“These are realistic goals,” Hardel said. “As the sheriff, my responsibility is the safety of citizens and the safety of the officers.
Hardel noted law enforcement is responding to crimes that have become more serious since the heroin epidemic began.
“We need more help out there,” Hardel said.
Hardel graduated from Iola-Scandinavia High School in 1982 and obtained an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Northcentral Technical College in 1987.
He graduated from the FBI’s Law Enforcement Executive Development program in 2007 and from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Problem-Oriented Policing Center in 2008.
Hardel has received training in counter-terrorism, ethical and character-driven leadership. He is also a state-certified instructor in defensive tactics, emergency vehicle operations, pursuit, pursuit intervention technique, tazer and restraint.
Prior to joining the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Office, Hardel worked part time for the Marathon city police and county sheriff in 1986-87, then with Milwaukee Protective Services.
In April 1988, Hardel began working in Waupaca County as a corrections and dispatch officer.
He moved to the county’s patrol division in 1991 and became a patrol sergeant in 2000.
He was elected sheriff in 2006.
Hardel said he chose a career in law enforcement because his parents taught him the value of community service.
“Mom and Dad had four kids of their own and they always took care of foster kids,” Hardel said, noting his brother started in law enforcement in 1979 or 1980.
“We’re put on this earth to help people,” Hardel said. “Law enforcement offers a lot of opportunity to change people’s lives.”
Hardel said officers work with people who need help.
“It’s not just about arrests. It’s about how can we change this person’s situation,” he said.
Legacy of change
Hardel said his goals have focused on providing the equipment and training his officers need to do their work safely and efficiently.
He noted every squad car has its own computer, thanks to a state grant.
Officers can run a records check, write an accident or an action report from their squad car, rather than calling dispatch for the information or returning to the law enforcement center.
The county has also upgraded its radio system from analog to digital, upgraded its communications system and added towers.
The sheriff’s office now has 95 percent coverage for its mobile radios and 75 percent to 90 percent coverage for portable radios.
Waupaca County has also added a snowmobile patrol and an ATV patrol.
“We’re keeping people on the snowmobiles safe and keeping property owners happy,” Hardel said.
Hardel has also started a cold case investigation team in partnership with the state Division of Criminal Investigation.
Two cold cases are still under investigation in Waupaca County:
• The March 22, 1992 double homicide of 23-year-old Tanna Togstad and 35-year-old Tim Mumbrue, in a farmhouse just north of Weyauwega.
• The Jan. 15, 1978, murder of 26-year-old Marcella Carpenter, who was found in a burning house in rural Clintonville with a knife in her back.
“I don’t feel we should have any unsolved cases,” Hardel said. “Before I retire, I’d like to see the end of both those cases.”
Hardel has also found ways to increase revenues.
In addition to state grants to pay for extra patrols that enforce seat belt and drunken driving laws, the county sheriff’s office offers vehicle registration.
Waupaca County’s jail also has negotiated long-term contracts with Wood County and Portage County to hold some of their inmates. This generates a total of $1.4 million to $1.6 million annually.
The jail now has 24/7 nursing staff due to increased opiate use among the people who are arrested.
All corrections officers have access to stab vests and a new training area with a mock cell has been set up in the basement of the courthouse.
Hardel has also initiated 12-14 weeks of field training for new officers in the patrol, corrections, communications and detective divisions.
“We also started a school safety program two years ago,” Hardel said. “We felt we needed to step up and make sure our kids were protected.”
Hardel said deputies routinely stop at the schools in their patrol areas several times a day.
“They’ll stop at lunch and visit with the kids,” Hardel said. “By showing a presence, it’s a deterrent.”
Hardel said he is looking to obtain grants and work in collaboration with area police departments to have an officer’s presence in every school.
“That’s what it’s going to take to make sure our kids are safe and we don’t have a tragedy in Waupaca County,” Hardel said.
The sheriff’s office now has an Internet Crimes Against Children officer who works with state and federal agencies.
A new computer forensics lab allows investigators to process computers and download data from cellphones.
“We’ve made cases just on phone calls,” Hardel said.
Waupaca County has established its own Crime Scene Investigation unit and an evidence processing and inventory system that scans and codes every item.
The SWAT team now has a 30-foot long truck with roll-up doors for hauling equipment and a military surplus MRAP that will soon have a battering ram designed, built and donated by Waupaca Foundry.
“We’re creating a Rescue Task Force if we ever have an active shooter,” Hardel said.
Each RTF team will have a paramedic, firefighter and officer to go into an active shooter situation and extract people. Team members will wear helmets and vests and carry first-aid kits.
Hardel said all patrol squads now carry defibrillators and Narcan to provide emergency medical treatment if the officers are the first to arrive on the scene.
As much as he appreciates the importance of equipping his officers, Hardel believes teamwork is key to the department’s success.
“You can get more things done as a team.” Hardel said. “I think the majority of our staff are awesome and we work very well as a team.”