Clintonville officer receives state award
Crime prevention group recognizes LeBreck
By Bert Lehman
Officer Joe LeBreck, with the Clintonville Police Department, received the Practitioner of the Year award from the Wisconsin Crime Prevention Practitioner’s Association (WCPPA).
LeBreck received the award at a banquet in Oshkosh on Oct. 20.
After finding out that he would receive the award, LeBreck said he couldn’t believe the news.
“I have been part of the association since 2011 when I started going to the conference and being a member of the group and being on the board since 2013, so I’ve seen the caliber of officers who get that award,” LeBreck told the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette.
He added, “Then the vice-president who oversees the awards called me afterwards. He’s a person I admire, I look up to, and I look at as a mentor, so that was part of the process of being humbled and taken back … I was being handed the award by someone who I’ve been looking up to the majority of my law enforcement career, who has gotten the award prior.”
LeBreck said that winning the award means that he’s done things in his career that focus on crime prevention.
“It’s the one area where I’ve always focused on,” LeBreck said. “There’s so much we can do in law enforcement. I’ve always been a part of the crime prevention community. I’ve never let that go. It’s always been a part of my law enforcement career in my 15 years. To get handed the award from my mentor in front of colleagues from across the state that I’ve known for over 10 years, it means that I’ve reached that point. It makes me feel like I’m in that circle of people and it’s a positive feeling that I’ve accomplished something in my career.”
Clintonville Police Chief Craig Freitag nominated LeBreck for the award.
LeBreck said Freitag is a hands-on chief and he always knew Freitag took notes on what each officer in the department does.
“I really didn’t think he paid attention to everything. I just thought he knew what I was doing,” LeBreck said. “He knows what I do from day-to-day and the stuff we’ve been doing. He’s always been very supportive of us, so I was taken aback that he went the extra mile to really showcase what I had done for the police department and what I had done prior to coming to the department. You don’t find that every day in bosses. I was humbled by that and I was very appreciative of it.”
In the nomination, Freitag said when he became the Clintonville police chief in 2019, he wanted the department to host more community events, but not all the department’s staff was on board.
He said when the department hired LeBreck in 2021, he knew LeBreck would work toward the department’s goal of hosting more community events.
“Joe’s passion is community policing and he has many contacts throughout the state to assist in implementation,” Freitag said.
The first event LeBreck signed the department up for was the Q90 Police Lights of Christmas program.
“Because of Joe’s work we raised more money for a first-year department participating in the event than any other department had in their first year,” Freitag said in the nomination.
Those efforts allowed the department to receive thousands of dollars in gift cards to hand out in the community.
“I witnessed several times Joe handing out the cards to people in need,” Freitag said in the nomination. “You can see by Joe’s expression he isn’t doing it because he has to, he is doing it because someone needs that extra little help.”
LeBreck helped organize the Stuff the Squad event, which collected donations for the local food pantry. Shop With a Cop is another event for which LeBreck volunteered.
In addition, through a connection with the Cops and Kids Foundation from the Milwaukee area, LeBreck helped secure funding and supplies for the departments first Cops and Bobber’s event, a fishing event that was held in June 2021.
LeBreck also helped organize Root Beer Floats and Cops, a Badges and Bullseye archery event, and a Gutter Buster’s bowling event.
“All these things appear to be easy to organize but it’s not,” Freitag said. “Joe, within a year, has been able to build relationships with key stakeholders to assist with funding and planning of these events. Joe is not shy to go ask for assistance.
“When someone asks the question, ‘What does community policing look like?’ Joe LeBreck is what community policing looks like. He does not do these things for awards or recognition, he does it because he wants positive relationships between the community and police. Joe volunteers many hours of his own time to make the city of Clintonville a better place.”
Impact of events
LeBreck said the community events the department hosts are important because “as law enforcement we see a small portion of our community a large percentage of the time and it’s usually for a negative reason.”
He added that a large percentage of the community goes a long time without interacting with law enforcement until something bad happens in their life.
“By focusing on community relations we’re meeting individuals we probably wouldn’t interact with on a daily basis,” LeBreck said. “Also, our programs have a tendency of focusing on some of the most vulnerable members of the community. We focus on the youth because they’re vulnerable as victims and they’re also vulnerable, not only being the victim of stuff but not knowing when to ask for help or to go for help. By building relationships with the youth in our community, they’re going to feel comfortable approaching law enforcement officers. And they’re also going to know what may not be normal in their lives.”
The department sponsored events help build a friendship with the youth of the community, which helps reduce crime and helps reduce the potential of someone being a victim, LeBreck said.
At the events, when LeBreck sees the participants having fun, he said “it’s a great day at work.”
LeBreck acknowledged that he isn’t the only person who makes the department’s community events possible.
“I don’t take the lead on all of them (programs), the vast majority I do take the lead on,” LeBreck said. “It is a team effort in our department. I could not have done as much as I’ve done at the department if it wasn’t for the help of everyone else. Our dispatchers, our command staff, and the community support helping us raise the funds we’re able to get.”
Regarding funding for the community events, LeBreck said all funding comes from grants or fundraisers. Funding is not part of the city’s budget.
He added that the community events are also beneficial for police department’s staff, as they are good for mental health and provide a positive work experience.
“By doing these community events it kind of reignites the fire a little bit,” LeBreck said. “They love meeting the kids, getting to know the kids. They build those relationships.”
With the positive experiences, LeBreck reiterated that it is an honor to win the award.
“For me, it’s like the Vince Lombardi (trophy) in the crime prevention world,” LeBreck said. “But I could not have gotten that award if it wasn’t for the team of people at the Clintonville Police Department and our community. That award can be broken down into pieces and given to all those components and then some, including officers from other agencies who have been my mentors and helped me with these programs.”