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Mayor’s response to protester questions, as city begins process to create Citizens’ Advisory Board

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The City of La Crosse continues to address the outcry from area residents, who have been protesting over the Minneapolis Police killing of George Floyd. Another protest is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at Riverside Park.

Kabat

Saturday, La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat responded to five questions protesters had for city leaders that were asked at Wednesday night’s rally. Those answers are shown under the headline later in this story or by downloading the PDF here:

The Mayor’s office said Kabat’s responses are just a start for the amount of work ahead. It also requested that anyone that wants to be part of the La Crosse citizen’s advisory board, let Kabat know (contact info: click here). Those people must be city residents, though Kabat “envisions technical and advisory seats for non-city residents..

More info on that board, as well as virtual town halls and research into creating an independent investigative group to address allegations of police misconduct will be coming.

The office also said Kabat wants that citizen’s advisory board to “assess and recommend changes and improvements to training, policing practices and accountability.” And, that Kabat is working on legislation for the city council to consideration this summer. Specifics will continue to come to light over the next few weeks, as the city takes input and recommendations, before finalizing any legislation.

Kabat is also researching and considering an independent process to investigate and prosecute misconduct, according to the Mayor’s office. Information on the police’s policy manual can be found by clicking here.

The Mayor’s office also stated that Kabat “supports the ‘8 Can’t Wait’ recommendations, in regards to policing standards. The City of La Crosse and La Crosse Police Department (LCPD) are actively working on most of the initiatives, including limiting the use of force, deescalation, requiring body cameras, training, and community oversight.”

According to the Mayor’s office, many of the “8 Can’t Wait” recommendations are already covered by existing police policies, but they will be reviewed and compared to one another, “to better understand how they are consistent and where the policies need to be updated,” the statement continued. Those reviews and comparisons are happening immediately and will be highlighted online soon.

Lastly, the Mayor’s office stated that Kabat has signed the Obama Foundation’s mayor’s pledge to address use of force policies including: 1. REVIEW your police use of force policies; 2. ENGAGE your communities by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories in your review; 3. REPORT the findings of your review to your community and seek feedback; 4. REFORM your community’s police use of force policies, and he will be reviewing the tool kits and resources available through the MBK initiative.



KABAT’S ANSWERS TO FIVE PROTEST QUESTIONS

1. How will you use your office to work with the community and create the change and justice you say you support?

My vision is a La Crosse that is an inclusive and welcoming community for everyone, with real opportunities for safe, decent and affordable housing, strong businesses and good paying jobs and
transparency in City Hall, including the La Crosse Police Department.

We actively seek out and work with our community members to gather information about existing conditions and problems. We work together to develop the goals and action steps, and the programs and
policies to realize this vision.

Specific ways we work with the community to create change and justice include the traditional methods of public meetings, one-on-one conversations, presentations and education about challenges, surveys,
outreach through the City’s web site, social media, and information sharing and listening sessions.

A critical next step is to develop forums and opportunities for people – especially Black, Indigenous and People of Color who do not feel safe or welcomed – in sharing their experiences and ways we can
improve. We must identify what changes are needed.

To address this need for better outreach and engagement, I have contacted a number of groups and individuals here in La Crosse to discuss more effective ways to work with our Black, Indigenous and People of Color. We are working to schedule a virtual town hall (or halls) to discuss transparency, systemic racism and policing here in La Crosse – more on that to follow in #2.

As we have for the past seven plus years, the City of La Crosse will continue our multi-pronged, comprehensive program to improve our community through our neighborhood revitalization program.

This program includes community policing, pedestrian lighting and safety, refurbished parks and recreation areas, high quality libraries, enhanced transit service and investments in our streets and public spaces. We support community-wide efforts to end homelessness, combat drug and substance abuse, and improve the mental health and well-being of our citizens. Our neighborhood program also includes
building and facilitating more affordable housing, supporting and growing local businesses and jobs, especially women and minority-owned.

We will enhance how we measure and track our performance in all these key metrics and in how we share that performance with our community.


2. How will you ensure transparency in the planning process and how will community members be invited to take part?

We will work with the City’s Planning & Development Department, Neighborhood Revitalization Commission and Human Rights Commission (HRC) to develop inclusive, welcoming processes and ways to engage all citizens.
**Please note: We are currently working with the HRC and La Crosse’s Black Leaders Acquiring Collective Knowledge (BLACK) leadership to host a virtual town hall(s) with City and community leaders, members of the La Crosse Police Department, and others involved in the criminal justice system. Please stay tuned, as we are working on the details of the meeting date(s), format and agenda.


3. What is your plan to address systemic racism in our community?

Addressing systemic racism in our community must include all of City government, our housing programs and policies, and supporting and growing local businesses and jobs – especially for Black, Indigenous and People of Color. As Mayor, I will also: invite local governments, the La Crosse School District, businesses, institutions and non-profits to evaluate policies in fair housing, jobs, education, lending and community investments, seek community input into changing and updating these policies and programs, and establish clear goals and action steps to understand how effective these programs and policies are at making La Crosse a welcoming and inclusive place for everyone.

We will build upon the work of the City’s HRC, who held multiple listening sessions during the past few years to put together a strategic plan for improving our community and addressing racism. To build upon
these efforts, we must re-engage citizens, listen to their stories and try to understand. We must identify specific benchmarks, measure our impact and develop the updated policies, programs and standards to get us where we want to go.


4. How will you continue to protect La Crosse resident’s right to protest?

As has been demonstrated through these past several days, the City strongly supports our citizen’s free speech, their right to assemble and the right to petition their government. The City will continue doing everything we can to respect, support and promote these fundamental American rights. We will continue these practices and procedures with safety in mind, by working and communicating with event organizers and our community partners.

We have witnessed four (4) recent peaceful marches and protests because of the efforts of the organizers, participants, LCPD and City staff.


5. How will you increase transparency surrounding the trainings LCPD go through?

On June 4th, the LCPD launched their transparency in policing web page, with information about their training programs, standards and procedures, arrest information including use of force, budget and personnel, among other information.

Going forward, I am working on legislation for the La Crosse Common Council to create a citizen advisory board, who will review and assess our training programs, offer input, and help assess and understand the training program’s effectiveness and make recommendations for change and improvement.

Thank You.
Sincerely,
Mayor Tim Kabat

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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