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Longtime UW Police Department assistant chief to retire

June 17, 2010 By

Dale Burke, assistant chief of the UW Police Department (UWPD) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, will be retiring on July 1, 2010, after nearly 31 years with the department.

“This is an opportunity for me to do something different for the next phase of my life,” Burke says, admitting he doesn’t quite know yet what that will be.

Assistant Chief Brian Bridges will be taking over Burke’s responsibilities after July 1.

“I’ve had the pleasure of serving the university community in a variety of ways over the years, and I have enjoyed every minute of my time here,” says Burke, who was one of the co-chairs of the campus’s Giving From Within fundraising campaign and co-chair of the Great People Scholarship campaign. He also served as president of the Dane County Chiefs of Police Association in 2006 and is a past president of the Fitchburg Police and Fire Commission.

Burke was hired as a security officer — the start of his law-enforcement career — in 1979 by the late UW Police and Security Chief Ralph Hanson. Four months into the job, Burke was promoted to the rank of police officer, and he quickly moved up in the ranks.

In 2002, UWPD Chief Sue Riseling promoted him to one of two assistant chief positions. Riseling says the university community, UW Police and law-enforcement agencies statewide will miss Burke, but no one will miss him more than she will. “He is loyal, exceedingly competent, professional and a good friend. His energy, work ethic and leadership are exceptional. The officers work hard to reduce crime and his continuing focus on that mission has been relentless.

“Above all,” she says, “he will be missed for the way he treated everyone with respect, fairness, compassion and a great sense of humor.”

When asked what some of his most memorable moments have been, Burke had several in mind. “The Camp Randall crush in 1993 was certainly significant,” he says, recalling that when it occurred, he was tapped to serve as the department’s first public information officer. “I had expressed an interest in it and thought it was something our department had been lacking for a long time. … The chief basically told me to run with it. It was trial by fire, that’s for sure.”

He went on to spur training in media relations for other UWPD personnel.

Burke also says 9/11 had a major impact both on him and the department. “After 9/11, we grew a whole new division in our department,” he says. “Without 9/11, emergency management and infrastructure security likely would not exist today. Prior to 9/11, our primary focus was on protecting people and their property … After 9/11, we had to focus on how we secure things, both real and theoretical. … Controlling access is now just as important to others as it has always been to police. The world has changed and we have had to change with it.

“There was no active shooter training prior to Columbine,” he continues. “Nobody thought of that. The fact that we’ve had campus shootings [such as Virginia Tech] has forced us to develop [new] strategies. We have always placed a premium on training. We want our people to have the most current information, best practices and equipment available so that they can put them to use in service to our community.”

Burke says equipment and technology have changed dramatically during his time with UWPD. At the start, he recalls, there were no cell phones, squad cars had only AM radios and two rotating lights, and officers didn’t have pepper spray. He notes that computers are both good and bad for police.

“They allow us to do much more in terms of fighting crime, but they also help facilitate criminals in being criminals,” he says.

Of community- and problem-oriented policing, he says, “We got into it in the early ’90s, and it has certainly been instrumental in our being able to have a 36-year low crime rate last year,” adding that partnerships with campus have been critical components of the efforts. Today, instead of one liaison officer for all campus residence halls, he notes, each hall has its own liaison officer; liaisons have been appointed for Memorial Union and the Athletic Department; and the department has four community officers and an award-winning Badger Watch crime prevention program.

Burke describes many other memories of his time with UWPD, ranging from planning for Y2K and Halloween, to staffing concerts at Camp Randall with the Rolling Stones, U2, Genesis, Pink Floyd and more. And he recalls campus visits by dignitaries including the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

“I have treasured those opportunities to rub elbows with some of them and hear their remarks and work behind the scenes to protect them,” he says.

The UW Police Department will host a retirement tribute for Burke on Thursday, June 24, from 4-7 p.m. in the Kohl Center’s Kellner Club. Members of the university community who would like to attend should RSVP to Cathryn Pierce, 608-262-4527 or