Retired sheriff has a new beat

Ken Petersen, former Manitowoc County Sheriff, says helping the homeless is fulfilling

MANITOWOC — When Ken Petersen served as Manitowoc County Sheriff, there were few options for the homeless men encountered by his officers.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Ken Petersen (Benjamin Wideman | For The Compass)

Your Catholic Neighbor: Ken Petersen (Benjamin Wideman | For The Compass)

“In my day, when we’d get somebody who had no support or no place to stay, we’d end up either getting them a motel for the night (with funds from The Salvation Army or human services) or we would drive them to the county line and let them go. Other than that, there was nothing for men who didn’t have a place to stay here,” said Petersen, 66, who retired in 2007 after six years as sheriff and many previous years in law enforcement.

“We were only able to have a Band-Aid approach back then — it didn’t fix anything. Things would keep re-occurring. Getting a guy a hotel room for one night just doesn’t cut it,” he said.

So when Petersen, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, heard about four years ago that the first men’s homeless shelter was being created in Manitowoc, he eagerly joined its board of directors.

The Haven, located at the corner of Marshall and 11th streets in the former St. Boniface School, celebrated its one-year anniversary on April 15. During that time, The Haven served 62 men, providing a total of 2,251 overnight stays.

Petersen and the board of directors — whom he describes as “a super group of talented people” — generally meet once per month to discuss a variety of topics.

“It’s really rewarding when you work with someone and they end up being self-sufficient — you know you’ve accomplished something,” said Petersen, who is on his second term with the board. “You can see the results in this type of place. It’s very fulfilling. I haven’t run into anyone in this building who isn’t respectful and thankful. We haven’t had a police call the entire year.”

Petersen said there’s often a misconception about the men who stay at The Haven.

“We’re dealing with people who, through no fault of their own, lost their jobs,” he said. “Or they might be divorced and don’t have a place to go. Or maybe they don’t have a family or they’ve worn out their welcome somewhere else by staying on couches. When they come here, they get counseling and educated on everything from balancing a checkbook to living on their own and paying their bills, and going to work.”

Petersen attended Sacred Heart School in Manitowoc and went to Mass at St. Andrew before the creation of St. Francis of Assisi Parish. He said there’s definitely a religious component to his volunteer efforts at The Haven.

“The whole crux of The Haven is we like to follow the Beatitudes — how to take care of your neighbor,” he said. “What we’re doing here is helping people. We’re not supporting them all by ourselves. We’re giving them the tools they need to succeed on their own. And when we do that we get them to be self-sufficient, and that helps not only them but everybody else in the community as well.”

Petersen’s wife, Mary, also attends St. Francis of Assisi, and his sister, Kay Goswitz, serves as the parish nurse.

In addition, Petersen volunteers at Peter’s Pantry and the Capitol Civic Centre; is a member of the Francis Creek Lions Club; serves on a Crime Stoppers board; and helps on a Relay for Life committee.

Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Ken Petersen

Parish: St. Francis of Assisi, Manitowoc

Age: 66

Favorite saint: Christopher

Words to live by: “Always tell the truth.”

  • Tristan Kedrowski


  • PeterL

    Ken Petersen is a fraud and shame to US police force.

  • Joe Schmoe

    This POS guy is gonna rot in hell for all the lies and evil he has caused! You are a rotten evil evil person!

  • annon

    lying pos

  • san scholte

    No amount of helping the homeless will absolve you, you lying rotten piece of garbage. Rot in hell s**tbag

  • Natalie

    do you think he feels bad for being a crooked cop?

  • Ann Dromeda

    Wow, sorry kid..Grampa’s a bad, bad man!!

  • Connie

    I think his guilty conscience led him to charity work. He needs to fess up before he has to answer to a higher power for his actions. He is one of many that should be behind bars!!! There are times in life when you just do the right thing. I think America is slowly becoming aware that the corrupt culture of police runs long and deep. We should all be afraid.

  • Oliver

    I’m watching the Netflix documentary series called, “Making a Murderer,” and it sure appears that this guy, former Sheriff Ken Peterson is a real dirt bag who belongs behind bars for what he and his cronies did to an innocent man. Wow!! What a horrendous atrocity!! Corrupt law enforcement! Another reason why in today’s world, no matter who you are and even if you’re innocent of any wrong doing, you can never trust anyone with a badge. Innocence doesn’t exempt you from conviction!

  • Maxine Black

    Posting from Australia where I’m watching Making a Murderer. I’m not surprised that Ken Peterson has sought solace in helping the homeless. Every single Manitowoc, WI law enforcement agent looks as guilty as hell in this series. Squirming, prevaricating, clutching at straws. Sure no heroes here. Let’s hope Ken’s destiny lies in some sort of salvation because if I was St Peter I’d send him straight back through the pearly gates.

  • mndflds88

    How hilarious… A murderer, dedicating his late life to God. Ken Peterson is a liar. He murdered Teresa Halbach. He destroyed her family. He destroyed Steve Avery’s family. He destroyed the Dassey family. Ken Peterson’s family should be destroyed, too.

  • Thisguy

    ^This guy ruined a lot of people’s lives. This article should really be taken down.

    • Ariana

      Really. It is in such poor taste.
      I wonder what happened to all those who were “dropped off at the county line”. He could do that, knowing they had no where to go, nothing to eat?
      Is this really a church, or a cover for some cult?

  • John Paul Jones

    Crooked cop! All that needs to be said..

  • John Paul Jones

    “Always tell the truth.” Wow.. nuff said!

  • Ariana

    Excuse me? “drive them to the county line and let them go”??? Are you aware of what you are printing??? This is your “Catholic Neighbor”?? I don’t know who you worship up there, but this is not at all what the Jesus the rest of us Catholics know about taught. Just dump them off, as long as they aren’t in my “territory”? To have no regard for human life, to have no empathy; this man is capable of anything. This is who you highlight as one of your “stars”. I’d had to meet the rest of your crew.

    Helping the homeless? On the board. I’m pretty sure this guy has never sat down and talked to a homeless person.

    I live in Milwaukee, downtown. WE have homeless people. And poor people. In the winter, I drive around with a duffle bag filled with hats, mittens and scarves and hand then out to people who don’t have them. I’ve picked people up and driven them to shelters. I’ve taken them to the grocery store and bought food, I taken people into my own home, against the advice of many; if they had nowhere to go, I dish out food at a church that provides free meals.. NEVER EVER, would I dump a human being off without knowing they were safe and warm. Am I special?? NO. I ‘m not the “catholic neighbor of the month”, I’m just a decent human being with a conscience.

    I’m not even getting into the criminal activity this man engaged in putting an innocent man in prison for 18 years. And after reading this, I have no doubt he was involved in framing Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey 10 years ago. Someone like this is capable of anything.
    Those are the people you should be standing up for, the innocent people whose lives he has stolen.

    And who know what happened to many of those “dropped off at the county line”. People like you are why people have turned against Catholicism, and you can’t blame them, if this is what you glorify. You make me ashamed.

    You are supposed to be an example of what is good, of what Christ taught, not glorifying evil.