CHIPPEWA FALLS — Chippewa Falls police Officer Joan Mattheisen has returned from a three-week stint in Germany, where she trained and learned from German officers, so she can bring those skills and knowledge back home.
Mattheisen, 27, learned about the police officer exchange program a year ago and was instantly interested. She nailed down plans to go over the winter, and she headed to northern Germany on May 3, where she stayed with the family of a police officer. Mattheisen is the first Wisconsin officer to head to Germany as part of the program.
“We’ve hosted German officers, but we’ve never sent anyone,” she explained.
When German officers visited the Chippewa Falls Police Department last year, the local officers got to show the visitors some new tools.
“We showed them the Tasers; they don’t have them in their department,” Mattheisen said.
Mattheisen was impressed with the training center in Germany, and she learned a lot about the different ways officers do their job.
“They have one department for the whole state,” she said. “It’s kind of like the Wisconsin State Patrol, for the whole state.”
Police have a different set of skills there, and it is visible in the way they respond to calls, she added. For instance, all officers there travel with a partner, which really isn’t common here.
“We talked different tactics, in response to calls,” Mattheisen said. “It’s really hard to get a gun over there. It’s not common, like it is, with the Second Amendment, in the United States. They also have more party drugs over there. It definitely solidified why we respond the way we do to cases.”
That led to a lot of informational exchange between the cultures, she said.
“It also was educating them on how policing works in the United States, getting to the reality of what it’s like here,” Mattheisen said.
One thing that intrigued the German officers was how the Chippewa Falls Police Department uses social media to interact with the public and how the agency participates in local programs like the annual basketball game playing the Special Olympics team, or hosting “cookies with cops.”
“They were interested in that, and definitely wanted to apply it,” she said.
Along with the skills Mattheisen learned, she got to meet the equivalent of the state’s governor and attorney general as well as making a stop to the U.S. consulate.
Chippewa Falls Lt. Brian Micolichek saw the positives when the German officers visited here, and he said it was a good career learning experience for Mattheisen.
“Anytime we can see how other agencies work around the nation, and in other countries, in doing their job, it can only help us do our job,” Micolichek said. “The connections, the networking she was able to do, will only help her down the road in being a more well-rounded officer. The amount of information you learn, the information exchange, is invaluable.”
Micolichek said Mattheisen has the right mindset to excel in a program like this one.
“It’s her willingness to do it. She’s a very outgoing person,” Micolichek said. “She has the right personality to meet strangers and feel comfortable.”
Mattheisen used her vacation time to go on the trip; there were no costs to the Chippewa Falls Police Department or taxpayers.
Mattheisen grew up in St. Cloud, Minn. She attended UW-Eau Claire, where she played soccer and earned a degree in criminal justice. She began working in law enforcement three years ago in the Chippewa County jail division and as an assistant Huber officer. She also worked part-time as a Lake Hallie patrol officer, before joining the Chippewa Falls force as a full-time officer last year.