Joint statement from Kenosha County law enforcement pledges to address bias in policing
Leaders of all five Kenosha County law enforcement agencies put out a joint statement Friday condemning excessive force by police officers and pledging to address bias in policing.
“We condemn excessive force and will hold our officers and each other accountable. We strongly support legitimate police action but are disgusted by any instance of police misconduct, especially those where racist ideology may be a contributing factor,” states the message, which is signed by Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis, Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth, Pleasant Prairie Police Chief David Smetana, Twin Lakes Police Chief Adam Grosz and UW-Parkside Police Chief James Heller.
“We hear you and we see you. We are dedicated to evaluating our policies and practices to address the issue of bias in policing,” they state.
The message was issued after weeks of protests around the United States in the wake of the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis. Floyd died in front of an outraged group of onlookers, begging for help as a police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. That officer was later charged with second-degree murder.
Floyd’s death, along with filmed instances of violent interactions between police and protesters in some cities, reignited the Black Lives Matter movement and led to a national call for an evaluation of police practices and bias in the criminal justice system. The protests have also sparked criticism and support for police, especially as protests in some cities — including Madison — have sometimes included rioting, violence and property damage.
A “support law enforcement rally” is planned for Civic Center Park Saturday.
According to a Marquette Law School poll released this week, 61 percent of Wisconsin voters approve of the mass protests while 36 percent disapprove. A majority of black residents polled said police made them feel anxious rather than safe. While large majorities of people had favorable views of the police overall, 42 percent believe police are too willing to use deadly force.
The statement from the chiefs says the departments are all increasing training on de-escalation and in awareness and avoidance of bias. “We are increasing dialog with our communities to gain perspective and foster trust. Those who live, work, recreate or seek education here have every right to expect that their life is respected and valued,” it states.
Smetana said the statement was an outgrowth of discussions among the chiefs, the most recent organized by Miskinis this week.
“This was obviously a high priority for us to get together to discuss,” Smetana said. “As we talked (we decided) it was important that the message we were talking about at the table be relayed to the public.”
Miskinis and Beth were unavailable for comment.