Demand for Police Reform

Whitewater City Leaders

In light of the seriousness of the distance between our current reality and the reasonable goals of anti-discriminatory policies, equitable policing, and racial justice, we demand the city pursue reform in our local policing standards and policies.

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Whitewater Town of, Wisconsin

To: Whitewater City Leaders
From: [Your Name]

We find ourselves in an important moment in American history. Centuries of systemic racism have plagued every corner of our country since its inception. Today, we have the privilege to make meaningful change that will protect people of color from oppression and injustice in the future. First, our local leaders must acknowledge that this is not purely a distant national issue. It is a local issue that has touched the lives of countless members of our minority community.

We have heard their stories of injustice in Whitewater. We have heard from individuals who have claimed to have been pulled over by Whitewater police without cause, who have had their vehicles searched without cause, who have been unjustly suspected of possessing contraband, who have been been slammed face first into the ground by Whitewater police. These stories reflect the experience of people of color in our community. These are all unacceptable examples of racial injustice that currently permeate the City of Whitewater.

Nonetheless, these realities of institutional racism are not evident in the self-reflection of city officials. We have not heard the echo of these injustices from the individuals who have the power to address and change them in the future. We have not heard the City of Whitewater acknowledge and address what so many other local governments have about racism in policing.

We believe that the recent statements made by the City Manager and by the Police Chief in response to the protests to the murder of George Floyd are indicative of the inability and unwillingness of leaders of our city to promote and pursue racial justice and reform.

How our leaders respond to national crises matters. The crisis facing our city and our country is racial injustice and institutional racism. It is a crisis that must be acknowledged, taken seriously, and which demands swift and decisive action from our local leaders. The failure of government officials to respond in this way reflects a lack of leadership and commitment to justice. We require leadership that aggressively pursues reforms and developments that address the inequalities and racial injustices that Whitewater has faced, is facing, and will continue to face in the future.

At an event that purported to respond to endemic racial violence and extreme brutality on the part of the policing systems in our nation, City Manager Cameron Clapper made the toxic claim that "all lives matter." This phrase has a dark history of downplaying the racist nature of police brutality. It is people of color who are disproportionately harassed, brutalized, and killed by the police, not everyone. Not only was this an inappropriate venue for such a phrase, but by invoking it, City Manager Clapper revealed a lack of engagement with the underlying issues at hand. We trust that, upon seeing the public’s disagreement with his approach and use of his platform, he will make clear his commitment to reform the Whitewater police department and actively combat racial injustice.

While the Chief of Police Aaron Raap of the City of Whitewater made an effort to address his views of Mr. Floyd’s death and the subsequent international protests in a timely fashion, the statement lacks both purpose and vision. Mr. Raap’s statement failed to address the most important element of Mr. Floyd’s death, systemic racial injustice. This deficit in his communication is particularly glaring and concerning while the call for police reform throughout the country is only growing.

The statement lacks critical, balanced observation and reflection about the ongoing protest. The Chief failed to address or indicate his understanding of the reasons for the protests or why they are escalating. Instead, the statement focuses on the “escalation of violence and destruction of property” without mention of the context of police violence and racialized brutality. These protests are a response to the murder of Mr. Floyd by the police in Minneapolis. The protests have been met with the escalation of violence and of brutality on the part of the police. Without acknowledging this context, how can we expect Chief Raap to appropriately address these important and life-threatening issues that face our community members of color?

A central issue, both in the case of Mr. Floyd’s murder, and ongoing police reform, is transparency and accountability for the actions of police officers. This brings to light how each department handles complaints against officers. The Chief stated:
“Our department conducts very detailed investigations into each incident in which use of force has been applied by one of our police officers. These incidents are investigated by a supervisor, then reviewed by our captain, our deputy chief, and finally by me, your police chief.”
We demand that Chief Raap provide a detailed explanation on the 10 complaints that the Department received in 2019 and why all of these complaints were “exonerated” (Investigation indicates that the incident occurred, but was justified, lawful, and proper under the circumstances).

Even a brief description offered in the annual report invokes concerns. For instance, case no. 9 states: “The complainant stated that on 11/06/2019, the officer involved used excessive force and ‘choked’ her.” The complainant also said officers refused to leave her apartment and said that she was not provided with records of the contact when she completed an open records request. The complaint was classified as “exonerated.” The Chief mentioned in the statement:
“I also offer an option for any potential appeal of my decision regarding each complaint. Please continue to hold us accountable.”
All 10 complaints listed in the annual reports demand further explanation and clarification for why they were all exonerated. The public requires a detailed accounting of these investigations.

Last, but not least, the Chief mentioned in the statement:
“Within the Whitewater PD, our officers are regularly trained in de-escalation, defensive and arrest tactics, fair and impartial policing and much more”[1]
It is unclear from publicly available documents what is involved in the training he refers to when he says “impartial policing”. Further, in a climate of racial injustice “impartial policing” is insufficient training to address the problems at hand, especially for a force that lacks diverse representation.

As our demands will make clear, we consider the de-escalation training the Chief mentioned insufficient to capture the requirements and policies regarding use of force. Limiting sanctioned use of force and including strict accountability and review regarding use of weapons and force are imperative for community engagement. In the Department’s Annual Report and Strategic Plan, trainings are listed without context of oversight, assessment, and accountability. A number of these trainings, including those involving weapons and tactics that imply escalation of force[2] as well as “impartial policing”, need to be explicitly reviewed and subject to community oversight and engagement.

In light of the seriousness of the distance between our current reality and the reasonable goals of anti-discriminatory policies, equitable policing, and racial justice, we make the following demands:

Demands [see note 3] :

1.Commitment to critical self-reflection on the presence of militant racism within policing policies and practices in the City of Whitewater
a.Racist policing is present in Whitewater. It must be acknowledged if it’s
going
to change
b.Leaders must be forthright and unequivocal when addressing institutional
racism
c.Leaders must commit to specific actions that will mitigate racial injustice
and police brutality

2.Explicit policies regarding the use of force
a.Thirty years of research suggests that more restrictive policies governing
use of force and accountability result in significant effects in violence and
killings
b.These should include:
○Requiring officers to de-escalate situations, where possible, by
communicating with subjects, maintaining distance, and otherwise
eliminating the need to use force
○Banning officers from choke or strangle civilians, in many cases where
less lethal force could be used instead, resulting in the unnecessary death
or serious injury of civilians
○Requiring officers to intervene and stop excessive force used by other
officers and report these incidents immediately to a supervisor
○Restricting officers from shooting at moving vehicles, which is regarded
as a particularly dangerous and ineffective tactic[5]
○Developing a Force Continuum that limits the types of force and/or
weapons that can be used to respond to specific types of resistance
○Requiring officers to exhaust all other reasonable means before resorting
to deadly force
○Requiring officers to give a verbal warning, when possible, before shooting
at a civilian
○Requiring officers to report each time they use force or threaten to use
force against civilians

3.Transparent policies regarding the oversight and review when force is used in our community that are shared with the public, including analysis of representation of instances of when force is used among minorities in our community

4.Make explicit efforts to increase diversity on the force with transparency

5.Review and community disclosure of the empirical evidence of the effectiveness and justification for weapons and equipment
a.What is the evidence for the rise in crime in your Strategic Plan references?
The “drug houses”, gangs, etc.?
b.What is the justification for the gear that you wear on duty? Is there
evidence that this equipment protects the community? Share this evidence
before getting approval
c.Internal review and periodic community review and forum on use of violent
equipment

6.Long-term commitment to divert roles of police force to social work and community support groups[6]
a.For instance:
i. C-PMHA (community peer mental health advocate) model where
members with lived experience collaborate with care and communities
incorporate mobile response teams to support the needs of the
community (without involvement of medical/prison-industrial
complex)[7]
ii.alternatives to 911 emergency lines for mental health emergencies (up
to 20% of 911 use, and which require different specialization than police
force)
b.Use updated research on community-led public safety efforts to compare
any use of force policies and equipment purchases proposed

7.Transparent review of complaints with community oversight[8]
a.A complaint should trigger community action, not just the review of fellow
officers[9]
b.The process of the review of complaints should be transparent, not merely
reported at years’ end
c.When “exonerated”, or “Investigation indicates that the incident occurred, but
was justified, lawful, and proper under the circumstances”, the community
should be further involved in determining the appropriateness of the officer’s
intervention

8.Host regular forums with members of the community regarding policies, trainings, complaints, etc.

9.Provide a timeline for responding to these demands

We are committed to the safety, integrity, and the equitable and fair dispensation of justice in our community. We look to our civil servants for leadership and a level of commitment that matches our own dedication to equality, service, and justice in our city.

Notes: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rXB05ARWMi7ChjHMk5LBfeePN8XCkoRmkYShm1xYs8g/edit?usp=sharing