Interview with Kurt Leibold, 01/04/2022

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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´╗┐GL: This is Grace Lim interviewing Kurt Leibold on Tuesday, January 4 2022. For Campus COVID Stories. Campus COVID Stories is a collection of oral stories from students and staff at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh about their experiences in the time of COVID. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. You welcome. Oh, closer, even closer.

KL: Wow. I'm gonna be right on it right on it right there. Okay. All right. Before we get started, could you please state your name and spell it for us?

My name is Kurt Leibold That's KURT L E I B OL D.

GL: Now for the purposes of getting good audio recording. Tell us again, who you are and what your title is here at UW Oshkosh.

My name is Kurt Leibold And I am Chief of Police at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

GL: Before we dive into your Campus COVID Story we'd like to get to know you a little better. Tell us about where you grew up.

KL: Sure. I grew up actually I was. I was an Air Force baby. So I was born Air 00:01:00Force bases in the southwest until my father relocated us after he got out of the military, to Wisconsin. So I grew up in Monroe, Wisconsin, which is south of Madison. And I made my way to Milwaukee, to go to school to go to the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. And that's when I majored in criminal justice. I always wanted to be in some kind of law enforcement field. So that was my focus going in Milwaukee.

GL: I need you to move up, Mic, even closer to you.

KL: Okay, how's that?

GL: Well, you can move it closer to you. So you don't have to lean in like that. There you go. Perfect. All right. I mean, law enforcement, I mean, what attracted you to this field?

KL: You know, I have no idea. It's, it's just something I wanted to do. I couldn't see myself having a Monday through Friday desk job. I wanted to do something that challenged me and that was different every day. And what you 00:02:00know, as a young kid as a 21-year-old, what, what I really wanted to do was be a motorcycle cop and wear those boots up to my knees. So that's what I ultimately did. When I went to Milwaukee. I got to do that for five years best job ever driving a Harley Davidson around every day. They probably didn't have to pay me but I'm glad they did.

G: And then tell us um, how did you come to work at UW Oshkosh?

Well, sure, I spent. Well, I spent I should tell you about my career in Milwaukee. I spent 26 years working for the city of Milwaukee. I started out as a patrol officer went to the motorcycles as I said earlier, but then I realized that I couldn't be out on a motorcycle, my body just won't be able to take that to a whole career. So I started taking promotional exams, I wanted to have a say in policing. So I became a sergeant. I was a street Sergeant, became a lieutenant, which was a shift commander in Milwaukee, Milwaukee has eight different districts. But each one of those districts is bigger than most police departments in this state. So very large police department 2,000 police 00:03:00officers, I was fortunate to have a very diverse career there that offered me a lot of different perspectives on policing. I commanded the Internal Affairs Section, which is the area that police's the police, I commanded the homicide division. And it was there that I first started use it utilizing something called Task Forces in policing. And one of the highlights was as I ran a task force that found a serial killer, his name was Walter Ellis. He'd been operating in the city for decades, actually, him and Jeffrey Dahmer were operating at the same time, different types of victims. But a whole another story. Ultimately, I ended up as the Assistant Chief, overseeing the north side of Milwaukee, did that for a number of years and then retired. I've seen many different types of police strategies in my career. Some work, some didn't. But what I did see 00:04:00worked and what should be done is community policing. And that's what it's called, what it really is, is about having relationships with community, building those relationships, building that trust, identifying the issues, and then problem solving so police interventions don't have to happen. And that's what I believe in. I brought that here. And what was interesting about university policing is that you can do community policing in a campus like this in its purest form. We're all about problem solving. We're all about making people successful. And that's what you can do at a university that you can't do in a city because you're too busy chasing radio calls all day long, so you just don't have the time to do it.

So when did you come here?

Oh, I came here in 2016


2016. Okay. So tell us, I mean, pre COVID Was your job? Pretty much the same? And tell us about your job pre COVID


Sure. I brought a lot of my strategies with me that we used in Milwaukee. I truly 00:05:00believe in data driven policing that partners with community policing, because what data driven policing does is you use information, whether it be from numbers, or it's from intelligence you gather on the street, you use that information to put the cops in the right place at the right time, to prevent crime, fear and disorder from ever happening. And that's what policing is, you're supposed to prevent crime. It's not about making arrests or writing tickets. So certainly, that's a tool you can use. But that's what we were. That's what I came here to develop. So we started developing data driven strategies here at UW Oshkosh. And we started having some great success using that in reducing crime on this campus, to the point where we were ranked in the top 100 safest universities in the nation at one point, so good stuff, but also around that is we took on emergency management and risk management. Risk management was in the Administrative Services Office, it worked out there. And 00:06:00Emergency Operations worked out of the Dean of Students Office or student affairs office, I should say. So I lobbied the Chancellor to allow me to have both of those operations because I wanted them to work side by side, because I see how they both intertwine with each other. Our risk reducing our risk on this campus is the same as being ready and able to handle all the any emergency that might happen on campus. So I started having those areas work together, and they managed all of the events on campus, they did all the risk assessments for events, and then we provided police services as necessary for those events. This was the groundwork we laid that helped us through COVID.

GL: Let's back up a little bit. Just before we get into the nitty gritty tell me I mean, how big is your department, how many students are you responsible for? I mean, what are your actual responsibilities.


KL: So my responsibilities are to obviously to provide safety for this campus, to enforce criminal laws to enforce the chapters chapter 18, for UW system code. And to just to make sure that order happens on this campus to maintain order on this campus. I don't look at it as a reactive role, I think our police department is has to be proactive in an environment like this. So that's one of our main focuses is always being out ahead and anticipating what's going to happen. The beauty of working at a university is it's very predictable. What happens in in September on this campus, pretty much dependent doesn't matter what year it is, it's going to be the same type of thing the next year, just different faces, different students, but you can anticipate, predict and then plan strategies around that. So that's what we started doing with our data and our initiatives, particularly around redzone. So I have 15 sworn police officers 00:08:00here including myself, and we have different ranks in that structure. We also have a detective. We have a K-9, which is for explosive detection, because we have so many events on campus. And we also have full time dispatch. We have student dispatchers. We have risk management. We have emergency management. And we have parking services. And we also employ usually around 40 Student Community Service officers who do most of our security work like Residence Life security stations or the security work around our events.

Okay. And then then --how many students. Are you talking about all three campuses of UW Oshkosh?

Yeah, we don't really we don't have primary patrol for Fox Cities or Fond du Lac. We have MOU with those police departments there, which is Menasha and Fond 00:09:00du Lac. So they're the primary and then we go in and do any kind of secondary and follow up investigation that needs to be done.

GL: Mou is what

KL: It's a memorandum of understanding, which means that we allow them to have primary jurisdiction and respond to emergencies. It's just an agreement on how things are going to work.

GL: Alright, let's move to the early days of COVID. I mean, when was the first time you actually heard about COVID-19?

You know, it was probably two years ago this week, is the first time we met about COVID-19

GL: When you say we would who's we?

KL: So let me let me go back a little bit. The foundation that we laid with emergency management and risk management, working together on crisis or events is we also put together an emergency operation committee, and that was key members of the university. Such as athletics facilities, risk management, police 00:10:00department, ResLife, Dean of Students, those are just examples of members that were part of this committee. And we would table top things that most likely would happen on this campus that would be required emergency operations, such as a fire in a residence hall, or let's say an infrastructure issue where power goes out, or our computer systems go down. We would have members of it also on this on these committees So, or flooding because that's something that happens here. It just so happens we had just practiced a tabletop for a pandemic, because of the Norovirus that we dealt with in 2018. So we learn from that how we handle norovirus, but then we also practice on what if this was bigger than what we dealt with with norovirus. So this happened two months prior to the COVID, even coming on our radar, so it was actually great timing, not that we ever dreamed, it would be as huge as this pandemic has become. But at least we 00:11:00were somewhat prepared mentally to be able to jump on this right away. So. So Cheryl Green was the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at that time in January of 2020. And she was concerned about international students now coming back for the spring semester, because a lot of our international students are coming from China. And that's where the COVID-19 was first detected. So we got a group together, which was mostly made up of this emergency operation committee, and people from the access campuses, because they have a number of international students as well. And we were starting to put together protocols on how we're going to receive these students, and what if they're sick and how we're going to respond to that. So at that time, we didn't think it was a big deal. We've kind of looked at this as like SARS, or things like that, where, okay, it's going to affect part of our community. But we it won't be that big of a deal for us. So we didn't, we didn't even look at it as anything like this. And that initial 00:12:00meeting, we actually brought in public health. And they were thinking not to minimize, because we didn't have all the information at the time, but they were thinking this was going to be anything worse than the flu, a bad flu outbreak. Public Health, from where, from Winnebago County.

GL: Okay, so let's, let's backtrack just a little bit. I want to get the timeline straight. That when did the EOC actually formed?

KL: We formed in 2016, shortly after I got here, really yes, that early. Because we, we knew we were in preparation for policing, we knew there were infrastructure issues that I was gonna have to deal with. And this is what I brought with me from Milwaukee. Knowing that bad things happen all the time, we just want to be prepared for them. And that's getting baseline training for incident command for people that wouldn't normally have that type of thing like our residents, life people, or our communications people. So we got that baseline training for them. And then we just started practicing on what could go 00:13:00wrong, based on risk assessments that we did around campus.

GL: So the two there were two other groups. The risk management is under were at that point

KL: At that time, it was located in the administrative Finance and Administrative Services.

GL: And then the other one is emergency management.

KL: Yes. And that was located in the vice chancellor's office for students.

GL: So how were those two groups? Or, you know, how's it how are they different?

The way things operated on campus for risk management was mostly about claims and workers compensation. So that's why it was in there. What they weren't looking at is the big picture on how do we reduce claims? How do we reduce slips, trips and falls? How do we reduce worker injuries? So we do that by looking at our environment, which is what policing is always about is looking at an environment to and how do we reduce crime, we look at the environment as 00:14:00well. So I always saw those things as going hand in hand emergency operations. I don't know why it was in the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Office, it should have been in the police department, because we'll be the first responders to just about any type of situation. And we have to be ready for that and planning for that all constantly. So that was an easy one. And the chancellor actually the first time I met with him, he handed me that and said, I want you to take this over and make it work. So that was a quick one. And then risk management I had to convince him that it belonged in under our umbrella as well.

GL: So you said you practice these scenarios? Can you tell us a little bit about that?

KL: Yeah, let's say well, like, you know, active shooters a no brainer. We practice that a number of different ways. Now my police department will, will go out and we'll do our firearms training based on active shooter. We train to be prepared for that day. We might have to do that. Then we also do tabletop 00:15:00exercises for our communication center on how they would handle this information and how they would put out the information to our community. So they're informed and they can make decisions to save themselves. Then we worked with the people that might actually be in the middle of it, which is our employees are our faculty, our students, and we start teaching them how to how to work around this by doing the classes that Chris Tarmin teaches. So that was a multi level way of training our community. We look at what we deal with quite often is like, leaky infrastructure when we have heavy rainfalls, and we have offices that are flooded. So we'll sit down and do a tabletop exercise with facilities was with the faculty and with our residents life on how do we all respond when this happens? So we could continue to provide what we do here. And that's our education, our classes.

GL: When you say tabletop exercise, what does that mean?

KL: That means we all sit around a big table. Well, that was pre COVID. Now we 00:16:00do it virtually. But then we have scenarios that we'll put up on a board and we'll talk through them. Okay, so this happens. What is our first response? So okay, now, a CSO patrol discovers that there's flooding in one of our academic buildings. What is the first thing we do? Well, we notify facilities who responds, okay, then we notify custodial who responds, then we notify the provost office because we might have to move classes that day, then we notify UMC because UMC has to put out information to our community to say, hey, these classes either cancelled or they're moved to this site. And then what's the long-term effect to that? So we have representatives from each of those areas, and they have to answer on how they're going to do this. And even though we're not actually physically doing it, mentally, we're preparing ourselves for when that day happens. Okay, I already have kind of a blueprint in my mind, on what I need to do.

GL: So back to the January of 2020, you had this tabletop exercise regarding the 00:17:00COVID-19. Is that right?

KL: This was just an initial meeting with key members just to and it wasn't a tabletop, it was how are we going to respond to this when these international students come in if they bring COVID here,

GL: Okay. And then what have you know what came out of that?

KL: Well, we like we said, we kind of, we didn't, we had no clue that it was going to be as big as it was. So we really kind of played it down. The next thing we started doing was talking to our community, especially our leaders, so our risk manager and our emergency manager at the time, our risk manager was Kim Langolf in our emergency manager was Trent Martin, Trent's Lieutenant here. And Kim was just our risk manager that we had at the time. So they would go to administrative staff meetings and talk about COVID. And what's going on and how we're going to respond. When we were trying to assure the community that we had 00:18:00this thing under control, we didn't at the time, we didn't even close have it under control, because we had no idea that it was going to hit us as hard and as fast. And if you just go to like the next month in February, March, it already came into America and spread like wildfire. And it hit us right away to to the point where now we're in March. And we have to start shutting things down. And this is something that is is never happened here. And there was no blueprint to do it. So the Emergency Operations Committee at the time, because it's different now, the one that existed then met over here in our EOC. And we started charting out how we were going to shut the school down and go virtually, because the infrastructure wasn't built yet to do that. So there was a lot to do in a short amount of time. The timing at that time was good for us, because we were coming up on spring break. So we were able to extend that out for an extra week, which 00:19:00allowed us to buy us time to start figuring out how we're going to get this done.

GL: So at what point did you think this this is not good? This is This is really bad or this is this is not what we think of that's when did that thought to occur?

KL: You know, when would really It happened when the virus landed on our shores, and it's spread so rapidly. That's when I realized that there's no way we can mitigate this. We don't even know how to do this. We didn't know enough about the virus. We were being told that this virus can kill you. Right away, especially vulnerable populations. So that was very concerning. We started doing an inventory of who our vulnerable populations were on our employees with our students, so we could help them be safe as well. And that's how we had a chair to start prioritizing. Who was the who was most vulnerable on this campus?


GL: We were watching the news. I mean, we're, you know, from Italy, I mean, you know, China, I mean, you see really horrifying images. It still it was seemed like it's halfway around the world it was not here, you know, it's not so seemed like something that's kind of foreign and horrible. But once it reached here, and then you see New York going down. And then you start making these plans did you. I mean, when we talk to our students that they we all thought that we were going to come back after two weeks, I mean, was that in your mind,

KL: I didn't think we would come back at all that semester, I assumed we would be able to, I thought this would be like a six month ordeal, and then we would be back. Never dreamed we'd be two years into it and still dealing with a lot of the same things. During that time, a lot of fear, we would start our day, every day in EOC, watching the news broadcasts, getting all the information we could of what was happening on the East Coast, because we knew that was going to 00:21:00happen here, the same thing was gonna happen here. So how can we learn from them and see what they're doing right, see what they're doing wrong, and then react to it. Sending everybody home was a hard ordeal. In itself, there was a lot of fear on campus, students weren't happy. Our faculty and staff were frightened to tell you the truth. And in rightfully so, because we just didn't know what was going to happen. We were working closely with the state with the city public health, because they also have their own emergency operations set up as well. So we were working closely with them, we were actually part of their EOC also. So what we had to do, and we were given an instruction to start transitioning our residence halls to possibly be an overflow for hospitals in the area. And the 00:22:00instructions we had at the time, which most people didn't know, was that this was going to be a place that most likely, the hospitals couldn't care for them anymore. So they essentially are going to come here. And maybe they would make it or maybe they wouldn't, you know, so we were planning, you know, where we're going to put boards where we're going to do these things. It was it was really a bad time. And it was we would we practically lived here because we were trying to prepare for this when you say we who whose we you know, it was it was a key most it was essential employees, which was a whole another activity or not activity and to figure out who essential employees were was a tough one on this campus. Because at this time, not many people wanted to be an essential of why, you had to be here. So obviously, the police department had to be essential. We also needed a facilities people here because we were transitioning residence halls we needed our custodial people here. At the time, we thought the virus was transmitted just as easily by touching things as it was through the airborne way 00:23:00it gets through. So that was also erroneous, but we still disinfected just about everything on a daily basis, if not twice a day. So it was a constant operation of exhausted people here.

GL: Let me let me talk about you personally as a as a police officer, or police chief, you know, the idea of being the essential worker, I mean, your role right off the bat, you don't get to have that choice to go home and shelter in place. Yeah, I mean, did it did the thought ever occur to you, man, I should. I wish I could go home.

KL: You know, I, I'm a police officer for now, almost 33 years, and I we get this ingrained to us in the academy that we don't get that luxury when bad things happen. We have to go deal with them. And my wife is a police officer also, she's retired from Milwaukee Police. So she understands that role, she gets that that I have to be here, you know, so she takes care of things at home 00:24:00I can do this, which is great. But not all my other officers had that they had young families, you know who their families wanted them at home because they were scared so and really keeping their spirits up was hard at times because they didn't want to get sick, they didn't want to bring this home to their family. But at the same time they had to be here to protect this community and get it ready for our next step. So we were seeing police officers and we came up with all this guidance here on how to how to have they go about their daily duties. You know, and everything about how they wash down the squad cars to deal with prisoners, you know, because COVID was out there.

GL: So you know, so the early days after you sent the students home suddenly and then non-essential people per se home. What did you do then? I mean, what was your role? Um, how do you fight something that you can't see

KL: the end we had no idea how to do it. And so here's where. So after we got 00:25:00through the semester, which was good, we were able to do a virtually and get through the semester, it became apparent to me that we needed to start immediately preparing for the day, they came back. And that means we're going to have to do in person classes and live in a world with COVID. I approached the Chancellor and I said, I have the skills to be able to pull this together, if you if you trust me, and allow me to do this, and this is based on what I talked about earlier, with my Task Force experience, I could see how you put together the right people, you could come up with plans and implement them in a short period of time. Because now at this point we're talking it's April, and we need to be able to get classes going by September. So to turn a ship this size around and make it happen was going to be it's going to take a lot of us and it's going to be a heavy lift. So I asked him, if I could, if I could put together a task 00:26:00force of people to come up with our plan and how we're going to do it. And I wanted us to think outside the box. Because at this time also, if you remember, this university was in in financial dire straits. And that was key on how we planned as well, because none of us wanted to go bankrupt and not have not have a place to come to work anymore. So we needed to get this place back on its feet. So he allowed me to do that I put together what was called the recovery task force at the time. And it encompassed 26 key people from around the campus. And it wasn't just, it wasn't the EOC members, there were a lot of the emergency operation committee members on this as well. But it was also I sought out people who could think outside the box, could get outside of the way things have always been done at a university and figure out new ways to do things. And that's how I challenged them are very first meeting, I challenged them saying, really I 00:27:00talked about the history of this place. I said you know how many people have come and gone through UW Oh, and at the time, we were preparing for 150th. How many people have gone through UWO, in their entire careers and never had anything near this impactful happen? This is something big. And I said how do we how do we do what we do here? And that's teach students and keep them safe? How can we do that during a pandemic, a global pandemic, which at the time we don't have a vaccination. That's the challenge. And I said, you know, you may not get your name on the wall someday, that says that I've helped plan out our response. But you know, you'll have that in the back your mind that I did something for this place. And not everybody can say that. So And I truly believe that. And in these people, I gave him a two week, two weeks to get this done. So okay, in two weeks, we have to have a plan on how we're going to bring back students in the fall. And we're going to test them, we're going to hold them accountable for our whatever kind of mitigation strategy was we put together and have them live 00:28:00together in in a residential dormitory setting, which was going against everything. The experts were saying you should do.

GL: When was this? Was this the first meeting and you gave him the two weeks on deadline? That was in May? May of 2020?

KL: May of 2020.

GL: Wow Okay. And then you said there were 26 people in this in this task force?

KL: Yes. Okay. So really, that was I looked at this as Phase 1 was when we first shut down the school got the residence halls ready and prepared them for spillover for the hospitals that never came to be. So then Phase 2 was in May. And that's when we put the recovery task force together.

GL: Okay. The backup to that spillover thing, which dorms were set aside for that.

KL: So we had Horizon Village was ready to go. We pretty much had almost all of our residence halls set to go Horizon Village at the time was deemed the most 00:29:00suitable because you had separate rooms, you had private bathrooms. But we also had Gruenhagen Conference Center ready to go and a number of other ones.

GL: Okay, well, okay. All right. So you formed a task force and then you gave them the two week deadline and came back with a plan to bring back open up school open, you know, keep the students and staff safe.

KL: Yes, we put together the plan in two weeks. They got it done. You know, and it was amazing because we, I brought in people that didn't know each other from this campus. And I went to the lot of people the vice chancellors, you know, the provost, a lot of different people and said, like I explained earlier, this is what I'm looking for in a member, help me identify who those people are. So bringing in a group and this is group dynamics, you know, because, as a matter of fact, I'm in the counseling program here on campus. And I learned a lot from that as well on how to handle group This is that's group counseling. But 00:30:00bringing in a group together, setting a mission, and seeing the discomfort in them in the beginning, because guess what they you know, they didn't know what they were in for. They didn't know who the other members were. They didn't even know me, you know, they did they do they trust that I could actually pull this off. So there was a lot during the first week that we had a struggle through the second week, it really came together, everybody was gelling, you could see it. And we would meet three times a week for three hours. And then everybody would get a lot of homework after that, that they had to get done for the next meeting, because that that our timeline was so key. So these people were putting in a lot of work.

GL: And these people came from what areas of the campus,

KL: They came from every part of this campus, we had member from just about every part of this campus that represents, you know, the faculty, the custodial, you know, the shared governance, you know, you name it, we had somebody, the only thing we didn't have is we stopped at the Vice Chancellor level. So it 00:31:00never got above Dean or director.

GL: And did you meet virtually?

KL: Yes, as a matter of fact, we planned on meeting. I'm glad you brought that up, because we planned on meeting at Culver Family Welcome Center, we're going to be in a big room, because my experience with these taskforce is you really feed off each other's energy. And I wanted that I wanted us to see each other's expressions, I wanted to see, when people weren't happy about some idea, or I wanted them to get excited about something together. I didn't think we could do it virtually. And but it came down to it the members weren't comfortable being in person. So we did it virtually. And I required them to keep their cameras on, you know, because I wanted to at least still kind of create that I want to see people's faces, I want to see expressions, I want them to see each other. And that was another key point of being a member is you had to have enough confidence to speak your mind and not worry about that I may offend somebody or 00:32:00I may, the group might not like me, I might be an outsider. We needed that at this point, because we didn't know what the answers were. So we went online and actually virtually worked quite well. It was more efficient to do it virtually. And we got the same outcomes. We were able to put up diagrams and things because we were getting good at going virtual. Nobody knew that we had the tools available to do that until we were forced to actually use them.

GL: So tell me, I mean, I know that you came up with a big plan. I mean, can you just highlight a couple a few of the plan?

KL: Well, sure we set up our own. We originally wanted our student health to be the testing area. It didn't take us long to realize that they didn't have the capacity to test the amount of people we needed to do. So we hired our own people. And at this time UW system wasn't much involved in each campus, we were pretty much on our own. So we hired our own people to set up our own testing 00:33:00site. We had no idea what we were doing. I remember the first week it was me and a couple police officers and Kim Langolf. And a few people we were running a testing site. None of us have ever done anything like that, you know, thank God Kim Langolf had some experience running in a lab. And we tapped into some resources here on campus as well. But none of us have ever run an operation like this before. So think about it. We have all these freshmen students coming in and sophomores into our residence halls. And now they have to come and start testing every day. And we have to have the Dean of Students hold them in compliance. So those were some those are the key strategy doing that surveillance testing. And Kim will talk more about this. But that got the attention from nationally, the CDC came here to watch how we did this. The US Surgeon General came here to say that we're a model. And this obviously further down the road. But the beginning we were putting in 16-18 hours in literally the 00:34:00staff was breaking down and that was our first weekend. I think a how are we going to maintain this?

GL: When the staff I mean, who are we talking about?

KL: Our staff was anybody we could grab. So we grabbed people that now Student Rec and Wellness wasn't in business anymore. So we grabbed them because students weren't going there because that was shut down. And we use them to run the testing site for quite a while.

GL: Let's go with the testing center. So we that was open for the students to go in and who else. This is just a students --.

KL: Students at the time it was just the residence hall students and Kim can probably tell you more about the details because that she had that oversight at the time. We used coaches because they weren't competing anymore. The teams were shut down.


And then what would they what were they actually doing?

KL: We used coaches to be our disease investigators and our contact tracers. So we had them, we had them trained, and they were actually a perfect fit. Because 00:35:00they have, you know, they they're very personable coaches are very personable, they're great at keeping spirits up, you know, the pep talk. And now students are getting sick all over the place. And their job is to contact that student, and then do the investigation. Who are your close contacts? Where have you been start backtracking so we can get out in front of this virus. And they did a masterful job at this, they were able to keep the kid spirits up.

GL: I don't think I've heard the story that the coaches were actually calling the students really,

KL: The testing center would get in we partnered with Previa Health, which is, we wouldn't have been able to do this. Without them, they laid the infrastructure for setting up our testing sites. So when a student would come back as positive, we would immediately notify them from the testing site, that they needed to grab their stuff because they were going into isolation. So then the disease investigators and contact tracers would then be there next contact, 00:36:00and they these kids are scared, you know, imagine being a freshman, us first time, you're really away from home. And now my first week here, I'm sick, and that's sick, they were getting sick, pretty bad. And now I got to go into isolation and be by myself. And for two weeks. I mean, how miserable and depressing that must have been for these kids. So that's where these coaches were so fantastic. They kept their spirits up, they gave them the information they needed, they told him everything was gonna be okay. And they follow through with them. And then they get to the hard work of now, who are the close contacts who we need to warn? Who do we need to put in quarantine? Because that's where those close contacts would go.

GL: So how long okay, I'm stuck on this coaches thing, which coaches are we talking about?

KL: So we had the gymnastics coaches, we have the basketball coaches. I don't think we really had many football coaches, but I could get you the list of those people as well. Julie Kahrs is the person we identified to run that part of the operation, and her job was going to be the contact trace and disease 00:37:00investigation. And then also our compliance piece we are going to have, we wrote up all kinds of procedures on how we're going to do this. We formalized our process. But now we have procedures, we have to make sure that we're following them. So Julie put together with her staff over student rec and wellness, a compliance team that went around and made sure we were actually doing what we said we were doing. Because the reason why we did that is because we didn't know if people were going to die on campus. And long term, we have to be able to show that we were prepared as much as we could with the information we had. And this is how we did it.

GL: So let's go back to that that plan that you came in the your RTF came up with, and testing was among the top. Yes, also testing.

KL: So the next thing we did after we developed that plan is we had to have testing we had to have isolation and quarantine, we had to have the disease investigators and the contact tracers, we had to have Dean of Students doing 00:38:00compliance, which means they were the they were the bad guys. They were the ones that threatened students, if they didn't follow through with their testing, or go to isolation or quarantine, things along those lines. We had facilities that had a regimented way of doing cleaning up this the areas and that type of thing. So

GL: Do you remember that that's the date of the first time we did the testing? I mean,

KL: let's Yeah, it was the was the first week of September was the end of August, early September when students first started coming back okay in time.

GL: And how many people were tested that first week or I don't even know how

KL: You know, I'll get those numbers for you. Yeah, I'll get you exact graphs that show you that. So one thing I should say is after the recovery taskforce put together the plan, we developed all of those themes. Now we put together implementation teams to make it happen. Like all of those Plexiglas barriers, 00:39:00that was part of the plan. Now we needed somebody to go out and build it. So we had implementation teams all over that had to get this done. And we had the summer. The recovery taskforce got the plan back by mid May, it was approved by cabinet by the end of May. So now we had June, July and August to get it done. And it was a lot of work. And we thank goodness we gave ourselves that much time because it took all of that time to get ready for this.

GL: What were, I mean, did you have come across any obstacles regarding your plan?

KL: You know, we had to adjust on the fly but because we didn't see some things you know, obviously there's always unknowns out there when you're putting a plan together so we were very fluid we adjusted on the fly. That was another thing as I had the Chancellor to allow us to go outside of the normal decision making tree he led us make decisions on the fly that were best to implement the 00:40:00plan. And that included financially, all the money flowed through one account during that time. And that's to buy all the supplies, we needed all the tests, we needed all of those types of things. Because like I said, we went out and hired our own testers, our own nurses to do this work for us. So financially, that paid off very well for us, because fiscally, we saved the university a lot of money during COVID time, by just narrowing where we spent our money. So that that was key to success right there. So I have to give this university in the people that work here, so much credit, because everybody jumped in and did their job. And that was the key to the recovery taskforce is I told them, You got to get outside of your own world and your own interests and think about what's best for this university as a whole. And they did that for the most part. And that's why our EOC still functions well today, because those key members think about the university first and their areas of concern secondary.


GL: Were you in touch with any of the other campuses and their own EOC is like UW Madison, or La Crosse, or you comparing notes, or were we doing something unique,

KL: We were doing something unique. We went out and made our own plan and ran with it. Other universities were waiting for UW system to come up and give them guidance. And I realized that we didn't have the luxury or the time to do that, because this was going to be a big lift to get this done. So school starts, and here we go. And it was like right, the day before the students arrive that we finally got the testing center set up. That's how we were cutting out so close right there. And we hit the ground running and we didn't look back, we had a big surge right away, which we anticipated. And that was another key. And you might recall we put out weekly communications at that time to the university as well. 00:42:00They came in my name, but Peggy Breister wrote most of those if not all of them based on the conversations we would have an EOC and I and those communications she did so well because and I would have faculty and staff and students thank me because and parents, because for keeping them informed, but also for keeping everybody calm around this. What we what we started doing that is using that data. So now we're surveillance testing, all of these students were surveillance testing. And then we brought

GL: Tell us, what's the surveillance testing

KL: Surveillance testing is that we're, we're having students from each residence hall test once a week. So we're looking for trends is what we're doing, we're not necessarily testing them, because they're sick, we're looking for where this virus is showing up. And we were able to track per floor per residence all we kept track, whenever we got to 10% of the students on that floor, were infected with COVID, the entire floor had to come in and be tested, 00:43:00and then that entire floor was also disinfected. This is how we stayed out in front of the virus. And this is this is actually called hotspot policing. So we use data, we see where the hotspots are, and then we send in mitigation to stop it. And, and get those the key to getting out ahead of this virus was to get the students infected into isolation and quarantine as fast as possible. So that's what we did. This got the attention of the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington, DC, because we were using hotspot policing strategies for the virus for COVID-19. And that actually was something that they touted as something that should be done, especially in university world. So they did some write ups on that as well. I thought that was really cool, you know, to take police strategy and use it for a virus. So we had a surge, which we knew we would and I think 00:44:00the peak was about 100 students in one day, came down with the virus. So we put our students in Webster Hall as isolation and quarantine. And we made some mistakes here. We didn't we didn't have enough planning around how we were going to put them in. So we had students we had females and males on the same floor, not in the same rooms. We would do two person people per room. And oftentimes the students we paired them where they didn't know each other. So not only are you in isolation for two weeks when you first get to campus, but now I'm with somebody I don't even know. But what the students did then is they found this to be like okay, we're all infected. Let's This is a mask free zone. Let's have fun. Because the students did well with the virus even though they lost their sense of taste and smell and they had sore throats and headaches and everything. For the most part. They work pretty well. But now they started having parties where we're getting like noise complaints coming out of our isolation and quarantine. So we had to make adjustments, you know, and I would go over there 00:45:00and visit the students and we would go door to door just to make sure everybody was okay. Because a lot of people didn't want to be on campus at the time, but we had the gear that we could keep us safe, at least we were confident we could be safe and not get the virus. And we were finding also, you know, we would open a door and there'd be males and females in the same room, not appropriate. So we, we started transition on them into Gruenhagen. And we had floors with females floors, with males, much more space, 24 hour operation over there, where they're good at it doing this. So we shut down Webster, after probably the third week into this and then moved everybody to GCC. And Mark Nylen. And, and Patrick Vander Zanden. And, and, and in those people over there just did a fantastic job of not only, you know, keeping the spirits up, they started providing games and puzzles and things to keep the students occupied. You know, we made sure that 00:46:00the students are isolated over Thanksgiving, had a Thanksgiving meal, Christmas time, same thing, you know, so they did a great job keeping those students good over there.

GL: Alright, so how I'm not see anything, we've covered all this stuff here. You know, you talk about, you know, giving credit to a lot of people. And then I mean, what, what would you say? You're the are the are the things that you you're most proud of, of your team's response, the committee's response.

KL: You know, we put together a very thoughtful plan. We executed it, we implemented it. And we followed through, we kept the community we kept our parents informed. We we started doing town halls monthly, so the parents could ask us all kinds of questions. And they and they had complaints too, because their students suffered at the time. But we listened to them. And we we want we 00:47:00actually we won, we made it through the semester. And we didn't have the things happen that other universities went through. So many universities around the country had to shut down completely again. Even in our own UW systems, they had entire residence halls that were shut down and made into isolation and quarantine. We didn't have to do that here. And even though it was different, the student is still sad. It was a good year, and I use my own son. He was a freshman here at the time, and he lived in the residence halls. And he went through our first semester. And he told me at the end of the semester that it was good. He had a good year. So

GL: And then how has I mean, we're we are still living in the time COVID, you know, so we're talking. We always sent the students home and fall of you know, the winter interim. That winter break. Were you what were your thinking about COVID. What during the spring semester of 2021?


KL: I mean, well, I knew. So we went through the fall of 2020. And then now in the spring of 2021. I knew we could do it. I knew and the entire emergency operation committee knew we could do this, we are good at it. We're actually feeling we feel a little bit of swagger about ourselves, because we knew throw anything out as you can and we can handle it. So we were anticipating now. Now we started doing public testing, as well, we opened up our own public testing site at Culver Family Welcome Center, which the public really appreciated. That was our partnership with public health, as well, because they wanted the ability for the community to be able to walk somewhere and get tested, not just drive somewhere because some people don't have that means. So that was a great partnership. But we figured we were going to come out of it at the end of that semester, going into summer, especially when vaccination started coming out. We're thinking this is the end. Okay. Mission accomplished. Job done. We had 00:49:00vaccinations public vaccination site to cover as well, we were getting our community vaccinated. What I didn't anticipate was that people were going to push back on the vaccination. After we all went through this, and now there's a way to get out of it. It just didn't register my mind and talk about disappointing. It was sometimes it was so frustrating, because here's the answer people let's do this. Let's get out of this. And we did and of course and then the variance came through. And I've learned so much about COVID that I never dreamed I would know this much about this disease. But I have an appreciation for how we used our economists on this campus Chad Cotti how he helped us strategize how we used our own in house chemists and biologists, how we also were testing wastewater at one point here, and that was going to be our plan when COVID was over, knowing that COVID wasn't ever going to go away. We were going to occasionally test our wastewater just to see if it still was around. 00:50:00And just to keep track of it. So maybe that will happen down the road. But now with the variance, it's even more frustrating because I feel like we have less control than we had back then. At least we could control our testing and in, control the data around it now, we don't really have that anymore.

GL: That's I just want to get this on the record that when you first the first time we were testing we were testing in Albee correct, yes. Okay. All right. So we're gonna get that and then go are still on. Okay. All right. So the, but just think back of spring of 2020. And you said that, you know, you and your team are feeling pretty good, optimistic. At what point? At what point did you say, oh, man, I can't believe we're still doing this. You know, what, when did that, that that sinking feeling come back,

KL: If you remember, shortly after commencement, and I think it was June of 00:51:002021, is when we were able to take our masks off again. And that's was it, we were thinking we're gonna wrap up the EOC, we're going to shut it down. And I can just say, in my experience in a major city policing, I've never had an emergency operation active for longer than a few months, much less now. We've been active for two years meeting every other day, for two years on this campus. So it's still active. So we were we were hoping for that day that we could say, we officially closed the EOC today on our pandemic response hasn't happened yet. So we thought we were there. And of course, it it didn't happen. And we're kind of right back in it again, right now.

GL: Alright, so during the summer of 2020, I mean, what were your team's you know, what did your team do?

KL: When we were putting together the, the entire operation?


GL: No, 20 Oh, I'm sorry. 2021. So we're talking 20, summer 2021, after commencement.

KL: So 2021, we started, we started planning on how we were going to shut down our operations. And a number of our Plexiglas barriers and things were taken down over the summer, as well, we left up some of the key ones. But we were really going to bring the students back, do another round of testing, and then be done with it. And the variants started happening, the Delta variant came into play. And we were we knew we were back in business again, at least for this semester. And then Omicron came and now we know we're going to be in this again until the end of the school year. So unfortunately, you know, and my people, the EOC committee, this is extra work for them, they still have their own jobs that 00:53:00they got hired to do. So this is all extra work for them. I just want to shout out to them, because they have been such a dedicated crew. And I don't think there's been a time that there hasn't been a single one of us that hasn't broken down and cried over this thing at some point, because it just wears on you after a while so. But we all want to start getting back to our jobs. We all want to start making this university great and doing what we were hired to do. And we're hoping that they come soon.

GL: The during the time of COVID. How, how are the crime numbers here?

KL: They were nonexistent crime stopped on this campus. We had a few thefts here and there, my police officers main job were to make sure that our buildings were intact and that nobody, nobody was breaking into them and that our infrastructure was safe. And we didn't have any breakdowns or pipe bursts and things like that. So in even city police in this city, crime went down quite a 00:54:00bit. In the aftermath, now we're seeing crime spike, violent crime, especially as we're as we're in two years of COVID. We're seeing overdoses, spike as well. And I do a lot of work with the overdose Fatality Review in this county. And a lot of it is COVID related. We had a lot of people who were in recovery that relapse during COVID. It was such a lonely isolated time, that we're seeing the effects of it now in our society.

GL: How has your job changed because of this time in COVID.

KL: Certainly, I've expanded my wings outside of just the policing world, and more so on understanding this university so my job will never be the same. Now. I think this only hammers home that we need to be prepared for just about everything. and take it to the next level, our superficial tabletops, we did 00:55:00have to be taken to the next level because if we have a pandemic happen at this larger scale. Why couldn't some other disaster happen at the same scale? So we have to be even more prepared.

GL: Now with Omicron, you know, we can't really talk about going back to normal or being yet I guess, but what would normal look like to you?

KL: Certainly, I would like to have testing and vaccinations move into our Student Health and make that area a little more robust. Because I think in the future, we'll need that. I'd like to get out of Albee and let them have their gymnasium back. And I know they want the same thing. I think this university, this world where we're more aware, we understand now, how these viruses are going to be around. And you see people that are used to see people in mostly 00:56:00Asian countries wore masks during their winter seasons, are there times when, when you saw viruses or infections up, you're going to see that more in America. I truly believe that. And you're seeing that now. And I and I think that's going to become part of our culture. And certainly, we wiped out flu last year, because of our masking because our distancing. And now this year, it's back because we're not doing those practices.

GL: So tell me, um, what has, you know, living and working during, during the time of COVID talk to you about yourself?

KL: You know, I you know, I just, I've learned that you can't do things alone. And that, without partners, you're never going to have success, especially around a big operation, like that, I think I've learned more about myself is that I'm resilient, I can bounce back, I have to keep as the leader of the group, I had to keep people up. And certainly I had my own meltdowns, but those 00:57:00were more private than public. And I knew I had those skills because policing in a major city requires you to have those types of skills and I was just fortunate enough to be here to be able to use those skills at the right place at the right time. And give back to this great community that I work at

GL: The private meltdowns I mean, you know, you have to be the cheerleader for the group and everything but to whom do you talk or share those moments of frustration, frustration?

KL: You know, obviously my wife she's a she's a pillar of my world. So I would go home and she would hear the day's events and but you know, here work it was, it was Kim Langolf and it was Chris Tarmann, Buzz Barres, people in EOC. Those are people that I really leaned on. And there were times when I was like, I don't know if I could do this anymore. You know, this is this is just too much. And we helped each other we stood each other up, and depending on what day it 00:58:00was, it changed. You know, sometimes it was somebody else. It was Kim's bad day or, you know, a Chris's bad day, but we needed to hold on to each other and make sure we got through.

GL: And do you? Do you mind talking a little bit about your, your private life a little bit? So you talked about, you know, your wife was a former police officer and she understands emergency situations and public health situations and things like that. Who else was were you living with? At the time?

KL: Well, I had I had a freshman who was here at UW Oh, so he endured this with me, he was actually a great source of intelligence too, because he would tell me what his were thinking in the residence halls, how were their spirits, you know, and, and how they were circumventing our, our procedures we put in place did because that's what students do. And they live in residence halls, they figure out ways to get around rules. So not that he was a snitch, but then I also have 00:59:00two boys in high school. So that was a whole different thing as well because I had to worry about them being in those situations and I had no control over the schools they went to and the process they put in place. I was very comfortable with my son working here because I thought we did a good job of putting in our processes to keep people safe. didn't have that with my other boys though. So I was always concerned about them.

GL: Were you and their family following the COVID protocol. So I mean, that's safety protocols at home?

KL: We did we pretty much isolated we didn't do much outside of our house. You know, we did put a lot of puzzles together play a lot of board games. I watched a lot of movies together. So

GL: Did your high school boys. I mean, were they in compliance

KL: They were you know, they pretty much stayed away from their friends group and that had to be so tough. I looked at that to my son, my oldest who came to UWO, he missed out on prom he missed out on graduation, he missed out on those 01:00:00things that are memories for the rest of us. He didn't get to have those experiences and his freshman year in college was weird as well probably be one of the highlights of his memories in the past because it's so different. But our world was so different than in certainly it brought our family closer together because we spent so much time together, which we probably wouldn't have when you have older teenagers. And, you know, so we were kind of fortunate to have that time together,

GL: Were they were all worried that you were out in the public still, I mean, you're here on campus every day, you're dealing with people. I mean, were they worried about your safety and their safety?

KL: You know, my children grew up watching their mom and dad go out to police in the city of Milwaukee so they think they are different than most kids. They're immune to that way of thinking they I think they believe that we'll be able to take care of ourselves.

GL: Okay. All right. And is there anything else you would like to add?

KL: I think you just brought it out a lot of me again, so, um, no, I don't think 01:01:00I have anything else to add. I think I've pretty much said All there is

GL: alright. Well, thank you for sharing your stories with us. We appreciate your contribution to the campus COVID stories at UW Oshkosh.

KL: You're welcome