UW-Eau Claire hires two new police officers, brings back question of ‘diversity on campus’

Faculty in all departments are trying to keep up with a quickly diversifying campus

More stories from Ben Strong

Praxis post
December 9, 2020

To keep up with a diverse campus, UW-Eau Claire Police are increasing their staff diversity through their two recent hires who are scheduled to graduate police academy late-October.

The UW-Eau Claire Police Department recently hired two new recruits: Vincent Xiong and Vanessa Evenson.

This marks a substantial increase in gender and ethnic diversity amongst the police department faculty — something they’ve been trying to do for a while now, according to Lieutenant Chris Kirchman.

Evenson is an UW-Eau Claire alumna. Having graduated in May, she’s already familiar with the community, according to a UW-Eau Claire article. Evenson also said in the article how important it is for women to seek out careers regardless of how dominated they are by men.

According to the article, Xiong is a Hmong community leader in Eau Claire. He said he is finally fulfilling his dream of making all people of color feel as safe as he did around police officers. 

Xiong’s hiring marks the first time since the mid-1990s that a person of color was hired on to the UWECPD. It’s also the first time they’ve hired a Hmong person, the article said.

The pair are still training in Police Academy and are set to finish in late-October.

“Diversity is trying to get a lot of life experiences from people that are representative of our community,” Kirchman said. “For example, the community on campus has been more female than male, so we’ve been trying to hire women to reflect that.”

Kirchman said the department has run into issues when trying to diversify their hires in the past.

“When we go through the hiring process, we’ll have maybe three people of color that apply, and then they won’t meet the minimum requirements,” Kirchman said.

The stigma of police departments hiring predominantly “white men” even intimidated Evenson at first, the UW-Eau Claire article said. Liutenant Kirchman spoke about discrimination within the police department.

“I don’t think we have a problem with discrimination,” Kirchman said, mentioning earlier that there’s been a long-standing effort to diversify their hires. “Do we have implicit biases? Sure, but everyone does, and we do training to address it.”

Amanda Carrier, a UWEC Officer since 2011, spoke about her experience with diversity training while a part of the police department.

“Ever since I could remember, we’ve been doing inclusivity training, sending officers to train and training everyone as a whole,” said Amanda Carrier, a UWECPD officer since 2011. “Hiring people who are diverse makes the department better and we want the department to be better.”

The effects of these two new hires aren’t isolated to the police department, however. Students on campus have started to take note of the diversifying police department.

“If only one group is talking, then only one group is being represented,” Hannah Kelly, a first-year political science student, said. “Diversifying the campus police will bring in those new opinions and will allow for other people to be represented.”

Solveig Rodlund, a first-year nursing student, also shared her thoughts on diversity and what the end goal is.

“I want diversity to not have to be shown,” Rodlund said. “I want it to be evident that it’s a diverse campus with diverse thoughts and opinions.”

Strong can be reached at [email protected].