By Brandi Makuski
It was the first time UWSP held a public installation ceremony for a new police chief, according to Kristen Hendrickson. The vice chancellor of business affairs said she had no idea the event would be such a huge draw.
“I think that’s a testimony to the kind of person Tony is,” Hendrickson said. “He clearly has very high integrity, and that’s very important to us. I’m floored by the attendance here.”
Hendrickson was one of the few who spoke prior to the formal swearing-in of Tony Babl, the new chief of police and head of parking enforcement at UW-Stevens Point. Babl left his 25-year career at the Stevens Point Police Dept. in April to take to the role.
Babl was sworn into office by Chancellor Bernie Patterson on May 14 before a packed house, comprised of dignitaries of multiple communities and nearby counties. Along with his family, many from local police and fire departments were also on hand to witness Babl’s new beginning, and the crowd gave him a standing ovation as his new badge was pinned to his university uniform by wife Holly.
Babl joined the Stevens Point Police Department in June 1993 as a patrol officer. He was promoted to sergeant in 2001 and named assistant chief in April 2015, a role from which he later stepped down in order to return to active investigative work. He is a native of Schofield and has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from UW-Platteville. He lives in rural Portage Co. with his wife and children.
He replaced interim chief Brian Bridges, who took over for former Chief Bill Rowe last August. Rowe had a difficult relationship with local law enforcement during his 15-year stint as the university’s top law official, but Bridges calmed those waters after Rowe retired last summer.
Chancellor Bernie Patterson said Babl brings not only an impressive body of experience and knowledge but existing relationships with local law enforcement and a genuine personality.
“Our department is on its way up,” said Patterson said, “with training, equipment, our partnerships with local law enforcement…it’s been phenomenal. It all supports and ongoing police function.”
He said his office has pledged the university’s ongoing support for the department, adding, “we’re just scratching the surface of what we want to accomplish.”
“We’re going to miss him,” said Stevens Point Assistant Police Chief Tom Zenner. He and Babl have been friends for over two decades, he said, adding they often worked the same shift. “He’s a good man; the university made a good score.”