Committee sees no racial bias in policing
No suggestions forthcoming
The Marathon County Public Safety Committee last week Wednesday responded to an Aug. 27 full-board training on racism by declining to come up with suggestions to address racial bias in the county’s justice system, with members saying the system was not plagued by discrimination.
“It ain’t us,” said supervisor Arnie Schlei, town of Easton. “There is prejudice anywhere you go, but I don’t think we have that big of a problem.”
The full county board viewed an online training session by Milwaukee professor Katie Hamm, “Uncomfortable Truth: A Primer for Undoing Racism.” The presentation was mostly a history lesson that described slavery in the United States, the Jim Crow era and period of housing segregation, but it also touched on justice issues, such as mass incarceration of blacks and unequal jail punishments for similar crimes committed by blacks and whites. Following the education session, county board chairman Kurt Gibbs, town of Cassel, asked each county standing committee to discuss the presentation and evaluate where the material might be relevant. Schlei said he disagreed with the presentation and said voters in his district complained the county board was wasting its time and not doing its job.
“Why do we have someone telling us we have to get along with other people?” he asked. “I am going to respect people, but don’t tell me I have to.”
Schlei said problems of race should be fixed, but that county officials should not search for problems to correct. He said he didn’t think that racial bias was a problem in the county justice system.
“I don’t see a race problem,” he said. “Maybe I’m wrong. I just don’t see it.”
Schlei got support from Allen Opall, supervisor from Rib Mountain. He said he took offense from the suggestion that “any white male over 40 knows nothing about diversity.”
Opall said he felt a lot of political issues were “creeping into” county board business and that he didn’t like that.
“We ran apolitical on the ballot and that’s the way it should be,” he said.
Supervisor Jean Maszk, Mosinee, said county department officials were “more sensitive than in a lot of places” on the issue of race and that this was “very commendable.”
Supervisor Brent Jacobson, Mosinee, agreed with Maszk and said he’d like to “focus on the positive” rather than try to find fault.
Supervisor Schlei echoed this sentiment. “If you are always looking for a problem, you’ll always find one,” he said.