Responses to a questionnaire received from the La Crosse chapter of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association

What are your priorities regarding policing and public safety that you like to see lawmakers accomplish in the next year?

To strengthen our policies and practice of community policing we will benefit from continuous learning. We want to use every opportunity to move away from an “us-against-them” mentality when it comes to our community police practice. The recently introduced statewide legislative
proposal for an independent use of force review board is a good move. On our local level the creation of a community-wide police liaison board is another thoughtful proposal for making good on continuous learning.

Following the tragic death of George Floyd, there have been many calls for police reform throughout the state. What police reform proposal do you believe should be a priority?

Referring to Sir Robert Peele’s Principles, “the Police are the Public and the Public are the Police,” there is a shared common interest and goal to promote community security. To the Police is reserved the option for use-of-force that is generally denied to the Public. So, it follows that use-of-force is the critical factor that sets the Police and the Public apart as they work together to promote community security. For this reason, I believe that legislative proposals bringing transparency to the use-of-force policy should be pursued. Some ideas being proposed include mandating police departments to post use-of-force policies online, requiring officers to report every use-of-force incident that they are involved in or observe and prohibiting disciplining an officer who reports policy violations, requiring the state Justice Department to publish annual use-of-force reports, expanding the Milwaukee and Madison police and fire commissions, and requiring commissioners to receive training on use-of-force policies.

Some people have called upon state and local governments to “defund the police,” but the effort means different things to different people. What does it mean to you, how do you think it should or should not be applied to police spending?

When I step back and try to get a larger picture view of this whole “defund the police” meme, it occurs to me that we have created an unfair burden on our police and on our communities relative to our history of the war-on-drugs (initiated in the 1970’s under the Nixon administration). A simple analogy is “when you are in a hole and you want to get out, the first thing to do is to stop digging it deeper.” The war-on-drugs policy is the real culprit, not the police per se. Drug addiction is a personal and a community health issue that cannot be effectively treated by use-of-force techniques. We need to stop digging that hole deeper, and we need to start putting community resources into services that are trained and capable of directly responding to the health issues (both public and individual) related to substance abuse illness.

A lack of adequate mental health services has resulted in a large portion of law enforcement’s calls for service involving individuals with mental health issues. What do you believe can or should be done to alleviate law enforcement’s role in mental health intervention?

We can reinforce our mental health crisis intervention teams (funding, training, and hiring of mental healthcare providers). We can directly address mental health as a public health issue (in counter distinction to treating mental health issues as moral deficiencies that require punishment and incarceration). When it comes to public safety and security, we need fire and rescue, we need our community police, and we need public mental health interventionists (crisis teams). These are the three legs to public safety that I think provide for our community security.

Various proposals have been introduced at every level of government on the topic of police accountability. Do you believe that law enforcement officers are appropriately held accountable for their actions? Why or why not? What changes, if any, would you support to increase police accountability?

No one of good faith, providing a service, wants to screw up. However, it is an unfortunate reality in life that screw-ups occur. When these happen, we need to achieve reconciliation and justice and repair for the injured wherever possible. We need to learn from mistakes. Vindictive and punitive pursuit (adversarial tort litigation) does not get us to where we need to get to. Protective immunity does not get us there either. The kind of accountability that we need is way more than fixing blame or finding a scapegoat for a screw-up. We need the kind of accountability that takes apart to understand the circumstances, the elements and the systems that lead to the undesired outcomes, to learn from them, so that we can reform systems to decrease the likelihood of similar bad outcomes occurring in the future.

In recent years, the number of violent offenses committed in Wisconsin has increased, and departments throughout the state report a significant reduction in the number of people entering the law enforcement profession. Meanwhile, there has also been a decrease in the number of officers employed throughout the state. What do you believe should be done to address the issue?

A fundamental motivator for human beings is the respect and appreciation that they experience from other human beings. If there are fewer people entering the law enforcement profession, this is a major signal that something is not right. Too many young people may not be imagining law enforcement as a profession that will give them the opportunity to live their lives with the enjoyment of respect from their neighbors to the degree that they desire. I would say that the best response to this crisis would be to embrace reform. In Sir Robert Peele’s Principles, the Police need to turn to the Public to ask what is it that needs to be reformed. I suspect that it has to do with the updating of standard procedures for the use-of-force and for the incarceration of people.

What do you believe we should know about you and/or your opponent as we consider making an endorsement in your race?

I am not an “us-against-them” kind of person.