New position, same passion

Nikki Miller, a former patrol officer for the UW-La Crosse Police Department, has been promoted to the rank of sergeant — likely the first woman to hold that role within the department. “We have a great team here, and I’m excited to continue working with students, faculty, staff and community members who live around our campus," she says.

Police Sgt. Nikki Miller felt a ‘calling’ to law enforcement

For Nikki Miller, being a cop is about more than enforcing the law — it’s about making a positive difference for those who need it most.

She’s helped save people from a burning building, helped provide closure to a sexual assault survivor, and helped train and educate the next generation of police officers.

Now, Miller is bringing her compassionate approach to policing into a new role. Last month, she was promoted to the rank of sergeant — likely the first woman to hold a supervisory position within the UW-La Crosse Police Department.

“This was the first place I worked as a patrol officer, so it’s great to be back home,” says Miller, who worked with the department full-time from 2007 to 2011 and returned on a part-time basis in 2018. “We have a great team here, and I’m excited to continue working with students, faculty, staff and community members who live around our campus.”

With the promotion, Miller will no longer serve as a patrol officer. Instead, she will work as part of the department’s leadership team, contributing to administrative decisions and guiding other officers.

“I have no doubt Nikki will be a great supervisor who will train the other officers in our department as they become great leaders themselves,” Chief of Police Allen Hill explains. “She is a consummate police officer. She brings a breadth of experience in different areas of law enforcement. And she has earned the respect of her fellow officers.”

Miller graduated from Viterbo University in 1998 and initially worked in the La Crosse County Juvenile Detention Center. She transferred to the La Crosse County Sheriff’s Department, where she worked as a jailer before deciding to become a police officer after doing a ride-along in Onalaska.

Miller had stints as a patrol officer with the UWL and Onalaska police departments, where she handled a wide variety of calls and cases.

At UWL, she helped a sexual assault survivor find peace of mind by putting her assailant behind bars.

In Onalaska, she pulled people from a burning building and revived others who had overdosed on drugs.

“I had the opportunity to work cases that I never thought, in a million years, I’d be able to work,” she says.

Miller returned to UWL as a part-time patrol officer in 2018 while continuing to teach at Western. Her new role as sergeant allows her to serve at UWL full-time.

Miller, an officer of color, also brings a valuable perspective when police departments are under heightened scrutiny amid the Black Lives Matter movement.

Especially in challenging times, she says, it’s important for police and community members to have a foundation of trust.

“Our most important role right now is being transparent about our policies and procedures, so that if an incident does happen, you have trust and buy-in with the community,” Miller explains. “The sad thing now is a judgment decision by a few officers has painted the profession as a whole, and that’s not a fair representation of what policing is all about. Most of us go into policing because it’s our calling.”

Miller’s experience and perspective will be valuable assets not just to the department, but to the entire campus community, Hill says.

“Nikki was promoted based on her qualifications, abilities and professionalism, and she also brings different life experiences as a woman of color,” he says. “We must always be looking for well-qualified officers of color because they’re essential to creating a diverse culture within our department.”