Man arrested in Caledonia for impersonating a police officer

By Emily Bialkowski

Caledonia Argus


A La Crosse man was arrested by Caledonia police on Nov. 27 for impersonating a police officer, carrying a weapon without a permit and committing a crime while wearing a bullet-resistant vest.

According to Caledonia Police Chief Kurt Zehnder, Derek Dale Newman, 25, of La Crosse, befriended an officer on the Caledonia Police Department, and a 13-month relationship ensued.

Zehnder said the relationship began after Newman purchased items from one of his officers on Craigslist and struck up a conversation about being in law enforcement.

Newman claimed he had previously worked for Vernon County, Wis., full time, but due to budget cutbacks he went to part time status and was hired part time in Campbell, Wis., the police complaint states.

“He spoke the jargon. Any person that saw him or talked to him would have thought he was an officer,” Zehnder said, offering examples of how Newman knew police ten-codes, or code words used to represent common phrases.

Newman went on several ride-a longs with Caledonia police officers and met a Houston County Sheriff’s deputy one night during such a ride.

The sheriff’s deputy checked with a friend who is employed by the Campbell Police Department, and his friend said he had never heard of Newman. The deputy also checked with the Vernon County Sheriff’s Office and was told Newman was not employed in Vernon County but had done a few ride-a longs with Vernon County deputies.

Caledonia police then arranged a ride-a long with Newman, during which time he was told they were going to watch an interview of a suspect at the Houston County Law Enforcement Center in Caledonia.

The officer and Newman checked their weapons in the lock box at the jail before going back to the sheriff’s office. Once inside the sheriff’s office Newman was arrested, the complaint states.

Newman admitted to taking criminal justice classes but had to quit “due to problems.” Newman also acknowledged doing some ride-a longs with the Vernon County Sheriff’s Office.

Newman “also had ‘CPD’ stitched on his cap to deceive other law enforcement officers into believing that he worked for the Campbell Police Department, as well as buying shirts that say ‘CPD.’  The defendant acknowledged that his outfit and his appearance, including the bullet-resistant vest, resembled that of a law enforcement officer,” records state.

Newman also admitted to telling his wife he had been working for the Caledonia Police Department part time.

Newman was charged with two felonies, including dangerous weapon – possession in courthouse and commit crime while wearing a bullet-resistant vest. He was also charged with gross misdemeanor carrying a pistol without a permit – public place and misdemeanor impersonating an officer. He is currently out of jail on bail.

Zehnder said no policies were violated by any of his officers in this incident and that it is common for departments to have ride-a longs with students.

“This happens all over the U.S. This guy knew what he was talking about,” Zehnder said.



  • Pete

    Unreal. How much confidential information did he receive. So anyone can ride along!! What a joke of a Police Chief we have.

  • thedarkknight

    What a joke… exactly what you’d expect from Caledonia law enforcement. SMH

  • tammy stadtler

    Am I reading this right. The Caledonia Police let this man ride along in a police officers vehicle, carrying a gun without a permit, and just took his word for it that he was also a police officer. If so, I find this very disturbing.

  • momof3

    Sad how people criticize those who would give their lives to protect and serve you…those who work holidays, nights, weekends away from their families so that they can save your lives if needed. To those with negative comments: I’m sure if you needed to dial 911, you would. They protect you like the military protects our country. Yet people judge those who protect and serve rather than the person who is being charged with a crime. Criminals are every where. There have been ride alongs for years…decades. It’s sad that people cannot be honest and trusting anymore. I hope the guy who did this has to pay for his crime. It sounds like he’s a real piece of work. And I hope the victims from this crime will be able to move forward from it.

  • BlindedCitizen

    In reading the comments above by our so called Chief Zehnder, he states that this happens all over the U.S. I cannot believe he made this comment. This was a very careless activity and does not occur elsewhere. Our local Chief and his Officers got “PRANKED”. To have trust in a complete stranger from out of state that our local Officers met on craigslist. OMG. This stranger/danger influenced our so called Chief and Officers of Caledonia. Now since he is such a nice guy and knows all the police jargons, we allow him to be a part of our Community Law Enforcement Team. He is allowed to wear Law Enforcement Uniforms, bullet proof and even carry a deadly loaded weapon on him. I have seen this subject ride along with our Officers. I have seen and met him with Officers at events. Yes, he did carry a weapon, yes he did have on a uniform and yes he identified himself as Officer Newman. OMG. The Chief goes on to state that no policies were violated in his department. Of course he is going to say that. Policies were violated by the Chief himself for allowing this to even occur. The Chief allowed this so called officer on the force with a loaded handgun. Wearing a uniform for 13 months and acting in the authority to making arrest. The Mayor and City Council of this City needs to look at this closely. This constitutes as a major violation of our community. Citizens were put in danger by this stranger/danger. I have spoken with dozens and dozens of citizens and we will stand up and speak out at a City Council Meeting if action is not taken since the Chief stated no policies were broken.
    Thank you!!

  • just the facts

    Just looking at the facts”
    This is not the first time some one has impersonated an officer in Houston County. A number of years ago, another individual who was riding with another area department got in hot water, when he claimed to be a deputy from out of state, badge, ID card and the works. I would like to think this does not happen all over, however, I would have to be a fool to think otherwise. I am sure that there will be some policy changes and some additional safe guards put in place, not only in Caledonia, but throughout the area. As I read the comments, are several of these people really worried about his incident or are they more interested in bashing the Chief and the officers? For someone to say it does not occur else where is, well, frankly, a fool. I guess if all of Our Law Enforcement officers were “God like”, and without any human flaws, we’d be celebrating their birthdays next week. The fact is the cops are human. Do they make mistakes? Is there some bad judgment used at times? You bet. It happens. For years the City of Caledonia has been hard on it’s law enforcement employees, and that seems to be the trend here.