Our fall Run With The Cops series is right around the corner, with races happening in River Falls on October 1 and Oshkosh and Wisconsin Rapids on October 3. One of the most anticipated things about Run With The Cops is the funny videos members of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Wisconsin produce every year to promote the event. We talked with one of the officers behind some of these funny videos, Captain Chris Tarmann of the UW Oshkosh Police Department. Captain Tarmann is a long-time highly engaged member of the LETR who dedicates a significant amount of time and energy to support Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes. This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
SOWI: Tell us a little bit about how you got started with LETR and Run With The Cops.
Capt. Tarmann: I’m the Captain of Police at the UW Oshkosh Police Department. I’ve worked at several different law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin over the past 15 years but the past 12 are with UW Oshkosh. I have a passion for helping others and everything I do is usually centered around an internal drive to see the excitement on the faces of people around me because of what I’ve done. My very first Special Olympics event was at Buffalo Wild Wings in Oshkosh 7 or 8 years ago. I was approached by Nicci Sprangers at that time who asked about doing a unique run event on the UW Oshkosh campus.
After a year or so of planning and development we tried it out and quickly knew it would continue to be a successful event. The next year I got more and more involved and the rest is history. I’ve helped at numerous Polar Plunges, Cop on a Rooftop, I’ve presented at the LETR conference, I was named the Law Enforcement Torch Run Officer of the Year and I’ve been a huge advocate for Special Olympics for the past 8 years.
SOWI: Why does it mean so much to you to dedicate your time and energy to the athletes of Special Olympics Wisconsin?
Capt. Tarmann: There are many reasons but…what I think is most impactful for me is the genuineness of a person with special needs. It’s contagious to be excited about everything, it’s powerful to celebrate the successes of each other’s contribution regardless of what place they came in and I want to be around people who love each other no matter what. I just love the environment created by people with special needs as they help to set examples for people without ID on how to act and react to situations that they sometimes take for granted.
SOWI: Why do you think the relationship between law enforcement and Special Olympics is so unique?
Capt. Tarmann: Because law enforcement needs Special Olympics athletes. They see us as their heroes regardless of what the world says and we need that encouragement regularly even though we think we don’t. Because law enforcement doesn’t do things lightly – we spend our energy to ensure success. Because we’re everywhere and always will be and we treat other law enforcement like family so it’s really easy to bring us together and get us to work together for a cause. There are so many reasons why this partnership works.
SOWI: Why is Run With The Cops an event you look forward to so much every year?
Capt. Tarmann: It’s unique, it’s fun, there’s a ton of energy at this event, people get to see the human side of police officers, it connects us to our community members and…there’s donuts. Nah, really – it’s amazing to bring 30 different agencies together to support an amazing organization all while being able to strengthen the positive connection between our community members.
SOWI: Do you have a favorite memory from your participation from Run With The Cops?
Capt. Tarmann: I do, every year. It’s being at the front of over 1,000 participants with the privilege to welcome them, thank our sponsors and send them off into a run like no other. I love seeing the smiles and hanging with this great group of people.
SOWI: How did you get started with the funny video tradition? Do you have a favorite video from over the years?
Capt. Tarmann: Donovan Heavener (a sergeant at UW-Oshkosh Police Department a few years ago) and I did it for a few other things we were involved in and we thought it would help us meet our attendance goal for the first year. The reaction was really positive so we kept it going and made it better and better each year. Now I think it’s somewhat of an expectation. My favorite video thus far is probably the video where a bunch of us officers are “stretching” in a room full of mirrors and no one’s listening to Zack Hyatt (our “professional trainer”). It’s short and funny and tells a great story of our personality!
SOWI: What’s the response been from the law enforcement community over your popular videos?
Capt. Tarmann: It’s been great! We always have folks who want to be engaged, people who want to leave an impact on the event.
SOWI: What do you guys have up your sleeves for this year’s videos?
Capt. Tarmann: We shot videos a couple weeks ago and now we’re working on editing the videos. I think we’ve got some good ones coming! You’ll see them soon.