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La Crosse County DA on approach to criminals after arrest: It’s a balancing act

Drew Kelly

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Over the past several months, social media has been ablaze with stories of people being arrested in La Crosse County, only to be released and arrested again a short time later.

It’s an issue that La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke has tried to tackle, both in understanding why some are released so quickly, and also how to better communicate concerns with judges.

Gruenke, from the WIZM studio Wednesday afternoon, said they try and track data on whether La Crosse is dealing with more problems than other parts of the state, but it’s complicated.

“We try to look at other cities, but it’s tough to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples,” Gruenke said. “Even if the crime rate is higher, is that because our officers are better at catching them?”

Gruenke spent Wednesday morning leading a discussion among the La Crosse County Criminal Justice Management Council, on how to effectively address concerns regarding public criticism of judges.

“We really run into the obstacle of the judges can’t respond,” Gruenke said. “So we’re looking at where do we go with the concern, how to reach out to a judge, and have that dialogue.”

The District attorney understands one duty he has is navigating the political nature of the argument between punishment and rehabilitation.

“Conservatives see it as we’re wasting money trying to help,” Gruenke said. “Liberals think we’re locking up too many people.

“We’re trying to figure out if we’re incarcerating people. Is there something we can do that’s smarter and cheaper?”

Gruenke said he is constantly meeting with law enforcement and judicial officials to determine the best course of action.