For Kewaunee County Sheriff Matt Joski and Kewaunee High School alumna Savannah Gardner, the quest for a better relationship between law enforcement and minorities began with a conversation. Gardner, now a student at UW-Milwaukee, reached out to Joski after organizing Black Lives Matters protests last month. She says it is important to have these types of conversations in areas like Kewaunee that lack a lot in diversity.
Joski appreciates the peaceful dialogue Gardner has started in the community and hopes it is something that continues.
Gardner plans on holding other peaceful Black Lives Matter protests throughout the summer near Kewaunee’s Harbor Park, including this Saturday.
FROM SHERIFF MATT JOSKI
I hope that everyone had an enjoyable and memorable Independence Day weekend! I know I have said it many times, but it is worth repeating. We are so fortunate to live in such a great nation with the many freedoms and opportunities that we so often take for granted. Having said that, I understand fully that we are not a perfect nation, just as we are not perfect human beings, but we should strive each and every day to better ourselves and even more importantly our country so as to bring both a step closer to that perfection we seek.
Too often we see the events unfolding throughout our country and we lose hope thinking that we here in Kewaunee County cannot make a difference. This could not be further from the truth. We tend to think that mending our communities requires some elevated academic status or financial resources when all it takes is a sense of common decency and humility. Just as in any journey we must begin with the first step, and in the journey to heal our country, the first step needs to be open and respectful dialogue.
Recently I was contacted by a young lady who has been in our local paper for her efforts in raising awareness regarding the ongoing struggles of minority groups in our nation and the tragedies which have unfolded involving interaction with Law Enforcement. Her name is Savannah Gardner, and below is the first of what I hope will be a series of questions and answers to help bring a better understanding to the work we do in law enforcement and provide a bridge for conversations which need to take place regarding the many aspects of our nation’s current culture and how each of them have lead us to our current reality.
1. What are the criteria to have different policies or tactics for arrest across police departments? (No-knock entries, chokeholds, etc.)
I cannot speak to the policies or procedures of other agencies , but we very seldom seek no-knock warrants from our Circuit Court Judge. The only time these would be utilized is to prevent the destruction of evidence, or if there was reliable information regarding weapons in the residence which would compromise officer safety. In regards to choke holds, we have never have, nor would we ever utilize such tactics. All aspects of our training is in compliance with the standards set forth by the Wisconsin Department of Justice and their Training and Standards Bureau.
2. Would you consider the Kewaunee County Sheriff’s Department a "community" police structure? Do you think this should be implemented more across the US?
I began my career in the early nineties when Community Policing was embraced by most agencies, unfortunately many have not continued to prioritize Community Policing in their mission as Public Servants, and a return to those principles are exactly what we need more of in our Country. While training and technology play a strong role in maintaining an agency which is supported by their communities, there is no substitute for the trust and confidence that can only be created and maintained through meaningful relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
3. What are you or your coworkers doing to alleviate racial profiling?
The best way to eliminate racial profiling as well as any other behavior which minimizes the value of another human being is to first and foremost recruit the best men and women to serve our communities. We take great strides to conduct thorough background investigations on each and every one of our potential candidates and when necessary, eliminate them from consideration if any areas of concern arise into their ability to be fair and impartial. Each contact that is made by our staff is reviewed and if the level of professionalism we expect is not met, corrective action would be taken.
4. How do you hold your fellow police officers accountable?
In all aspects of the duties performed by our Officers, any violation of policy, procedure, or state statute would be reviewed. If a potential violation was deemed significant, an investigation would be conducted by and external agency to maintain the upmost in transparency and legitimacy. Just as in any other profession, we apply progressive discipline. This means that we follow a disciplinary process and the outcome of that process could range from an informal counseling up to and including termination.
5. Do you think the police would benefit from a few of the clauses of "defunding"? Meaning, more specially trained professionals for nonviolent response calls, redirecting a portion of the police budget towards education, community development, healthcare, etc.?
For over a decade, we have collaborated with our counterparts at the Human Services Department in an effort to more effectively serve our community. What this means is that while we may have to respond to an incident which involves violent behavior, once it is determined that the behavior is due to a mental health crisis or a possible addiction issue, we then work together with those respective disciplines to find the best resource for that person at that time. We also have adopted a culture of Trauma Informed Care. This philosophy allows those who serve the common good of our community to take into consideration not just the act which lead to our interaction, but the underlying cause of that act which may involve a mental health condition, PTSD, as well Substance abuse or addiction. These types of calls are a significant challenge and greatly draw on our resources. While the care they receive will ultimately be provided by a skilled health care worker, we will always have a role in the initial call for two primary reasons. The first is scene safety, the second is limited professional mental health resources. This being said, all of the staff at the Kewaunee County Sheriff's Department have undergone "Crisis Intervention Team Training". What this provides our officers is the ability to see past the behavior and look for the cause of the behavior. This training has assisted us in effectively responding, and more importantly de-escalating heightened levels of anxiety at the time of the call.
I wish to thank Savannah for her work in raising awareness and the opportunity to answer her questions as it relates to the work we do here at the Kewaunee County Sheriff’s Department. While I am very proud of each and every Deputy, and the work that we do each and every day, we realize that our success is dependent on the support of the residents which we serve. I look forward to continuing this conversation of awareness and hope that we can broaden the discussion to other aspects of our culture which must also be addressed to bring about positive change. Stay Safe, and be the Change!