Have it your way

La Crosse police embark on 5-year strategic marketing plan

There are nearly 18,000 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in the U.S., and Justin Garvey wants people to know they’re a diverse lot.

“There is definitely a misperception that all police departments operate with the same values and driving principles,” Garvey said. “That’s not the case.”

Garvey is co-owner of Metre, the advertising agency hired by the La Crosse Police Department to develop a five-year strategic/marketing plan. The plan was unveiled Tuesday during a press conference at La Crosse City Hall.

Police 5-Year Plan

La Crosse Chief of Police Shawn Kudron addresses the police department’s new five-year strategic plan July 18 at City Hall.

Police Chief Shawn Kudron doesn’t shy away from marketing and branding. He said it’s important for a police department to distinguish itself and that marketing can “enhance our ability to tell our story to the community.”

Scott Dickmeyer

Scott Dickmeyer 

“We realized that a brand strategy would be the base that would help us integrate all aspects of our five-year plan,” he said. “It would help us tell our story.”

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Kudron said the process began 12 months ago, when the department approached UW-La Crosse communications professor Scott Dickmeyer, who had participated in the department’s previous two plans. He conducted a community survey with over 80 community leaders and police officers, many of whom attended the press conference.

Roger Stanford


The department then formed a 33-member Strategic Plan Committee. The committee reached out to Western Technical College president Roger Stanford, who offered expertise in both marketing and criminal justice. Stanford has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and heads an institution that offers a two-year criminal justice degree.

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“I get pretty excited about branding,” Stanford said. “Taking a strong brand position is just smart.”

La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds welcomed the marketing effort.

Mitch Reynolds


“This will be really important for messaging in our community and outside our community as well,” Reynolds said.

Garvey said there are challenges for any police department looking to market itself. People tend to have strong opinions on law enforcement, and the 2020 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is still part of the discussion.

“It did come up a lot,” Garvey said. “Many of the officers brought it up and said they were just as frustrated about how poorly it was handled as anyone else.”

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He said officers in La Crosse are “really working to eliminate the negative reaction to police, especially among young people.”

“The officers are buying into it,” Garvey said. “It’s not just talk. The brand, I think, will magnify that effort.”

Kudron said community outreach is critical to bridging divides with the public. He stressed the importance of “never losing sight of what building relationships with our community means — not just enforcement, but also looking at why relationships contribute to safety.”

The plan outlines the “four pillars” of the police department — leadership, community engagement, professionalism and development. He said the department’s branding efforts are unique and will have a positive impact.

“We were embarking on a journey that not many law enforcement agencies ever do,” Kudron said, “and we are doing it for the right reasons — to connect with our community as well as with the men and women we hope to recruit to the La Crosse Police Department.”