Book takes a look at crimes through Wisconsin officers' eyes

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Frank Schultz
Thursday, August 21, 2014

BELOIT—Hilary Dickinson wrote about crime in Beloit for two years. She enjoyed rushing to the scene and riding along with cops.

But like most reporters, she wasn't able to dig into the drama behind the big stories of the day.

Now, after two years of work, she has produced a book filled with the back stories of the cops who made the busts, heard the shots whizzing by their heads and saw the bodies.

“Wisconsin 5-0: From High-Risk Police Calls to Comic Cop Stories” comes from the police point of view and makes for fascinating reading.

Each chapter tells a story behind the stories that made it into the newspapers, including high-profile cases such as the 2012 Sikh Temple shootings in Oak Creek and a horrible triple murder in a mobile home park near Janesville in 2007.

The mobile home murders of the Lentz family are told through the eyes of a the Rock County sheriff who was new to the job at that time and continues as sheriff today, Robert Spoden.

Dickinson begins her tale with Spoden's theory of why James Koepp killed a mother and her two children, a theory that didn't come up at trial and wasn't known among the general public at the time.

Other local stories include the relationship of husband-and-wife cops Lauri and Russ Steeber of Janesville. Hint: She didn't like him at all, at first.

Anyone wondering about the military-surplus armored cars that are appearing at police departments these days could learn something from a story about a 2008 standoff in rural Richland County, where one man fought 200 officers.

The story comes with a photo showing what a high-powered rifle did to one armored car, known as a BearCat.

During an assault, “the rounds pinged off the BearCat like rocks hitting a tin can,” Dickinson wrote.

Despite the suspect firing dozens of rounds and throwing three grenades, no officer was hurt in the encounter with a man some described as a survivalist.

Cops opened up to Dickinson about tough cases, including a town of Beloit officer who responded to a home where a woman had given birth to a baby and left the child in a toilet.

The town of Beloit officer doesn't hold back his disgust at the woman's actions, and Dickinson lets his words fly without any sugar coating. The officer isn't named. A pseudonym is used.

A more lighthearted story involves a city of Beloit officer's discovery of a dead body.

“These officers go through a lot of traumatic things that I don't think a lot of people know about,” Dickinson told The Gazette.

The stories are short, to the point but still manage to get inside the officers' heads, at least a little. Anyone considering police work as a career would benefit from reading how longtime cops relate to their jobs.

Dickinson at times also touches on how cops live their lives when they're not in uniform.

Officers around the state surprised Dickinson by how open they were about their feelings. Some of them appeared to need to talk, she said.

“I really wanted to get inside their heads and find out how it was for them,” she said.

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