Wisconsin Professional Police Association

Serving Wisconsin's Finest Since 1932

Staff

Niki Nelson   |   President

Niki Nelson is an officer with the Waukesha Police Department, where she has served for more than 25 years. She was elected to the WPPA board in September 2007, became the Vice President in 2019, and was elected President in April of 2023. Niki continues to be an active member of the Waukesha Police Association, where she has spent more than 20 years on its Board of Directors.

James L. Palmer, II   |   Executive Director

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Phone: 608-273-3840 • Fax 608-273-3904

Jim Palmer is responsible for the development, promotion, and operations of the WPPA. In addition to serving as the organization’s chief executive, he is also the WPPA’s spokesperson, chief legal counsel, and chief lobbyist. Jim also administers the WPPA’s Extended Legal Protection Plan (ELPP). Jim currently serves on the governing boards for the National Association of Police Organizations, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, Inc., Wisconsin Law Enforcement Accreditation Group, Wisconsin Injured Law Enforcement Officers Resource Council, and Wisconsin Coalition of Annuitants. Following the election of Tony Evers as Wisconsin’s 46th governor in 2018, Jim was appointed to the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Policy Advisory Council. In 2020, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos appointed Jim to the Speaker’s Task Force on Racial Disparities, which was established to address racial disparities, educational opportunities, public safety, and law enforcement policies and standards.

Jim is a frequent public speaker on a wide range of legal topics and public policy matters related to policing, as well as labor and employment law. Jim has conducted law enforcement executive training for the Wisconsin Department of Justice and has presented to audiences such as the National Institute of Justice, Major Cities Chiefs Association’s Police Executive Leadership Institute, National Sheriffs Association, National Association of Police Organizations, Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy & Service, Wisconsin Field Training Officers Association, Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, Wisconsin City/County Management Association, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and University of Wisconsin Law School. Jim has appeared on national television news network programs such as “Dateline” (NBC), “Good Morning America” (ABC), “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” and “Anderson Cooper 360” (CNN), “America’s Newsroom” and “Your World with Neil Cavuto” (FOX News Channel), “America Tonight” (Al-Jazeera America), and “BBC World News” (World TV News Channel), to name a few. Jim’s written commentaries have been featured in all of the major newspapers in Wisconsin—as well as the San Francisco Chronicle, POLITICO Magazine, and The Crime Report. In 2015, his invited testimony was highlighted in the Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

Jim received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and a law degree from the Valparaiso University School of Law, where he was an editor of the law review. Jim is admitted to practice law before all state and federal courts in Wisconsin, and he is an active member of the American Bar Association, State Bar of Wisconsin, Dane County Bar Association, and Association of Wisconsin Lobbyists.

Jean Steinhauer   |   Director of Administration & Finance

Phone: 608-273-3840 • Fax: 608-273-3904

Jean’s responsibilities include all aspects of financial management, including internal control, budgets, payroll, investments, financial statements, and reporting to governmental agencies and the WPPA’s governing board. Jean also manages human resources and IT and supervises administrative staff.

 

 

Jean’s more than 35 years of accounting experience is varied, including public, investment, and non-profit accounting. She joined the WPPA as a staff accountant in 2005, became the Director of Finance in 2008, and has served as the organization’s Director of Administration & Finance since 2014. Jean earned her accounting degree and CPA certificate from the University of Illinois.

Roger W. Palek   |   Director of Legal & Field Services

Phone: 608-273-3840 • Fax: 608-273-3904

Roger has counseled countless law enforcement groups and officers from across the state in a variety of matters, including critical incident investigations, use-of-force cases, discipline, and departmental policy and development. In addition to conducting numerous legal presentations to officers at the WPPA’s annual conference and for the National Association of Police Organizations, Roger has conducted law enforcement executive training for the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

After growing up on a farm near Lansing, Michigan, Roger received a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Central Michigan University. He later graduated cum laude from the Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley School of Law, where he was a member of the Law Review. Roger first came to Wisconsin in 1993 to work for the regional affiliate of the state’s largest teachers’ union in Appleton. As the WEAC-Fox Valley Executive Director, Roger was responsible for advising and counseling local union leaders and members, negotiating numerous local contracts, processing grievances and arbitrations, and coordinating political action efforts. Roger left WEAC-Fox Valley in 2006 and joined the Madison law firm of Lawton & Cates S.C. He joined the WPPA staff in 2008.

He has been an active volunteer and supporter to a variety of charities including the Humane Society, the United Way, Harbor House, and the American Red Cross where he served as Board Chairperson from 2001-03.

Kate Harrell   |   Staff Attorney

Phone: 608-273-3840 • Fax: 608-273-3904

As a member of WPPA’s legal team, Kate provides legal representation to members in critical incidents, collective bargaining, and employment matters.

Prior to joining the WPPA, Kate spent over 15 years in private practice as a trial attorney in state and federal courts, with a focus on the representation of law enforcement officers and municipalities in civil rights matters, spanning from use of force cases to employment discrimination cases. She also served as a municipal prosecutor and has presented to various law enforcement officers regarding OWI best practices. She recently obtained a certification from Force Sciences in Investigative Fundamentals, Decision-Making and Human Performance. Kate resides in Cottage Grove with her husband and two daughters.

Randy Ingram   |   Field Services Coordinator

Phone: 715-482-3352 • Fax: 608-273-3904

Randy has worked for the WPPA since June 2002. His law enforcement background includes employment as an E911 Telecommunicator, Corrections Officer, and Deputy Sheriff with the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department from March 1993 to June 2002. In addition, he served on the Oneida County Deputy Sheriff’s Association Board of Directors as both the Chairman of the Bargaining Committee and member of the Grievance Committee. Randy predominantly represents WPPA members in North Central and Northern Wisconsin.

Randy served in the United States Air Force from October 1983 to June 1992 and in support of Operation Desert Shield/Storm. He has a B.S. in Criminal Justice from Mount Senario College and an A.A.S. in Police Science from Nicolet Area Technical College. He lives in Sugar Camp and serves on the Board of Education for the School District of Three Lakes and as the Assistant Chief on the Sugar Camp Volunteer Fire Department. Randy is a member of the Disabled American Veterans, the American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Luann Alme   |   Business Agent

Phone: 414-659-0383 • Fax: 608-273-3904

Prior to joining the WPPA in 2010, Luann was with the City of Stoughton for 19 years, most recently as the City Clerk/Personnel Director, where she was involved in all aspects of personnel management, including benefit administration and collective bargaining. Luann represents WPPA members in South Central and Southwestern Wisconsin.

Mike Backus   |   Business Agent

Phone: 715-878-4803 • Fax: 715-878-4803

Mike joined the WPPA in August 2015 after serving more than 23 years with the Eau Claire County Sheriff’s Office. During his time with the Sheriff’s Office he held positions in the jail, patrol, and detective divisions. He served as a member of the department’s Tactical Team and as the association president and vice president for numerous years. Mike also served in the Wisconsin National Guard and represents members in Central and West Central Wisconsin.

Rich Burghaus   |   Business Agent

Phone: 715-965-5332 • Fax: 715-965-5332

Rich retired from law enforcement after a 27-year career, the last 22 of which were spent with the Medford Police Department. Rich also has several years of leadership experience as the president and secretary of his local association and as a member of its bargaining committee. Rich has been representing WPPA members in Northwest Wisconsin since 2015.

Dennis LeCaptain   |   Business Agent

Phone: 608-215-2119 • Fax: 608-273-3904

Dennis served 30 years with the Janesville Police Department prior to joining the field staff of the WPPA in March 2022. During his tenure at Janesville, he served in patrol and as an investigator of crimes against children. Dennis was also a member of Janesville’s local association’s board and the WPPA Board of Directors for 21 years.

Robert Powell   |   Business Agent

Phone: 715-210-7678 • Fax: 608-273-3904

Bob retired as Special Agent in Charge with the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) following a 33-year law enforcement career. He began his career in 1987 with the Clark County Sheriff’s Department where he worked in several divisions including dispatcher, jailer, patrol deputy, and 10 years as Detective/Sgt before being promoted to Chief Deputy.

Bob served as President of the Clark County Law Enforcement Association and was a founding member and Team Leader for the Clark County Emergency Response Team. Bob was also named Director of Emergency Management coordinating the response and recovery efforts related to all natural and man-made disasters and managing the county’s Incident Command System.

During his tenure at DCI, Bob was a Special Agent and Deputy Fire Marshal assigned to the Arson Bureau before transferring to the White-Collar Crime/Public Integrity Unit. After being promoted to Special Agent in Charge in 2010, Bob supervised the Madison and Eau Claire Field Offices.

In June of 2023, Bob joined WPPA representing members in Northwest Wisconsin.

Thomas Schrank   |   Business Agent

Phone: 920-246-6191 • Fax: 920-632-4929

Tom enjoyed a 39-year career in law enforcement, beginning with the Montello Police Department in 1979, followed by 20 years with the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office and 17 years with the DePere Police Department. He spent more than 27 years working as a sensitive crimes Detective Sergeant, and he worked as a Crisis Negotiator for both Marquette County and the Brown County Joint Law Enforcement Crisis Negotiation Team. Tom’s background also includes working as a family court mediator and forensic interviewer. Tom joined the WPPA in August of 2018 and represents WPPA members in Eastern Wisconsin.

 

Prior to his retirement from law enforcement, Tom was an active local union leader. He previously served as the President for both the Marquette County Deputy Sheriffs Association and the DePere Police Benevolent Association. Tom still serves as the President of the Bay-Lakes Area Soccer Association for Youth, and he is the Head Coach of the Green Bay East High School Girls Soccer Program. He enjoys running, hunting, fishing, camping, drawing, and photography.

Kevin Sorenson   |   Business Agent

Phone: 715-581-0553 • Fax: 608-273-3904

Kevin became a member of the WPPA’s field staff in 2020 after serving more than 30 years in a variety of law enforcement roles. Following his honorable discharge from the United States Army where he served as a Military Police Officer, Kevin went on to work for the Clark County Sheriff’s Department, Marshfield Police Department, Mosinee Police Department, and finally, the Portage County Sheriff’s Office, where retired as a Patrol Sergeant in 2016. His diverse experiences as a patrol officer, deputy sheriff, patrol sergeant, and jail administrator have given Kevin extensive experience in areas such as traffic crash reconstruction, defense and arrest tactics, and crisis negotiation—among others.

In addition to serving in a variety of leadership roles within his own local association, Kevin was an active member of the WPPA Board of Directors from 2004-2012 and its President from 2012-2016. He primarily represents WPPA members in Southcentral Wisconsin.

Jeff Spencer   |   Business Agent

Phone: 608-963-7477 • Fax: 608-273-3904

Jeff retired as the Chief Deputy of the Sauk County Sheriff’s Office following a 33-year law enforcement career. He began his career in 1988 with the Department of Natural Resources and was hired by the Sauk County Sheriff’s Office in 1989. He worked in nearly every division in Sauk County, serving as a Dispatcher, Jail Deputy, Patrol Deputy, Detective, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, and Chief Deputy. He also served on the Emergency Response Team for 22 years, including 12 as the Commander. Jeff is a Certified Public Manager and joined WPPA in July 2021, representing members in Southwest Wisconsin.

Luke Wagner   |   Business Agent

Phone: 414-389-7645 • Fax: 608-273-3904

Luke comes to the WPPA after serving 17 years with Marquette University Police, with the last 6 years working as a Detective investigating violent crimes, drug cases, and sexual assaults in the near west side of downtown Milwaukee. He has also been a part of the Milwaukee Area Investigative team which investigates critical incidents involving Police Officers in Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties. Luke was part of the team that worked to have MUPA certified as a union and helped write MUPA’s first contract. He has served the Marquette University Police Department board as a Vice President and President and has chaired the bargaining and grievance committees for the last 3 contracts. Luke primarily represents WPPA members in Southeast Wisconsin.

Julie Neeley   |   Office Manager

Phone: 608-273-3840 • Fax: 608-273-3904

Julie has been with the WPPA since June 1993. In December 2007, she was promoted to the position of Office Manager and Editor of the Wisconsin Police Journal. In addition, she coordinates the Annual Convention each year. Julie also provides support to the WPPA’s Executive Director, its governing board—as well as the Awards, Scholarship, and Legislative Committees. She is certified as a Legal Secretary by Colorado State University and provides support to the WPPA’s Legal Services personnel.