Roberts enforces the law in state justice department

September 11, 2003

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UW-Platteville alumnus Michael Roberts, who now serves as Administrator of Law Enforcement Services with the Wisconsin Department of Justice, said his criminal justice degree from UWP was integral part of his success.

PLATTEVILLE - It isn't a new phenomenon that many college students begin studying one thing but end up graduating with a degree in something completely different.

University of Wisconsin-Platteville alumnus Michael Roberts, who currently serves as administrator of law enforcement services for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, is one such person. When he began studying at UWP in the late 1960s, he wanted to be a veterinarian.

The state justice department, you might imagine, has little use for veterinarians. Roberts ended up studying criminal justice at UWP and graduated in 1971, establishing a path to success in law enforcement.

In his current post, Roberts is involved with some of the most important aspects of fighting crime in Wisconsin. He oversees the crime information bureau, which collects and disseminates criminal history, and the training and standards bureau, which operates training for officers throughout the state.

Roberts reports directly to Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager and is also responsible for Wisconsin's three crime labs.

"They do all of the forensic evidence for the state," Roberts said.

All in all, Roberts oversees a departments with a total of 180 full-time employees and a combined $45 million annual budget.

Establishing yourself at the top tier of the Wisconsin Department of Justice isn't something you can do straight out of college. Roberts, who grew up just outside of Platteville near Belmont, got his start in law enforcement as a police dispatcher at the Platteville Police Department 37 years ago.

In fact, he worked at the police department while simultaneously taking classes at the University.

"I was working full-time and going to school full-time and that didn't leave much time for other things. You're burning a candle at both ends, but it was a thing that was necessary," Roberts said.

Still, even working as a dispatcher, he didn't aspire to go into law enforcement at that time.

"I kind of dropped into the situation. My original plan was to be a veterinarian," Roberts said.

But in some of his first classes he realized that career might not be for him.

"I took a lot of chemistry classes," Roberts said. "A lot of chemistry majors were enjoying the classes a lot more than I was. I said, 'This isn't something I like to do.'"

It was then that he turned his attention toward the criminal justice program.

"At that time to C.J. program was brand new. I had gotten interested in the law from working at the department," Roberts said. He split time between working as a police officer at the Platteville Police Department and taking classes, earning a degree in criminal justice in 1971. His education at UWP helped him get a position at the state's criminal information services bureau, where he worked his way up the ladder.

"It opened the door and helped me get where I am," Roberts said. "I don't think I'd be doing what I'm doing without it."

Roberts enjoys playing golf in his spare time. He now lives in Stoughton with his wife Melanie, but hasn't forgotten the city of Platteville or the University where he got his start in law enforcement.

"It's a nice community and a nice campus," Roberts said.

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