Policing in America
After the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020 and the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha on August 23, 2020 many Kohler citizens understandably began to question policing in America.
It is important to the Kohler Police Department that we try to answer the law enforcement related questions asked by our community members. The main questions we have received have been about our use of force policies and de-escalation training. The second has been about systemic problems in American policing. After some reflection on our part, we hope that our answers can be used as a starting point of continued conversations.
To help answer the first question, we have published all of our use of force policies on the Kohler Police Department website. They can be found by clicking here. You will notice that policies have been recently published. This was not due to recent events, but as a part of a new and updated policy manual. The Kohler Police Department’s Use of Force Policy is consistent with most use of force policies found in the State of Wisconsin and is accredited by WILEGA, an independent law enforcement accreditation group. De-escalation training has always been part of law enforcement training and is taught to Officers throughout their academy and career. In the last decade there has been an increase in training focusing on mental illness or those experiencing a mental health crisis. This training is intended to help officers recognize contributing factors to threatening behavior and has reduced use of force incidents. Unfortunately, this does not eliminate the need for all use of force. If necessary threatening or resistive individuals may still be met with force to be taken into custody, to reduce the threat to themselves, others, or if statutorily required.
As we shift to talk about systemic problems in American policing, it’s important to note that police departments are not part of a national system; they are local, independent police departments. Although officers are certified through the State of Wisconsin, each department has their own culture, specific law enforcement priorities, and policies. With that said, the concept of a national systemic problem in American Policing seems unlikely. This does not mean that there are not police departments and communities that have a long history of police problems, however there are also a lot of excellent police departments serving their communities. Until the communities with police problems get involved, have conversations, and focus on facts and real statistics that affect them, there will be no improving those police problems. All police departments in the United States are accountable to their citizens through their locally elected officials. This is by design, and when used properly, this system is the most effective way to hold police departments accountable and make the necessary improvements. Local oversight and support is imperative to having a quality police department. When there is not effective oversight or support, we begin to see the tragic breakdown in the relationship between the police department and the community they serve. This is not a perfect system however it is the best system for community policing. For better or worse Police are a reflection of their community through their elected officials.
At the Kohler Police Department we believe we have a strong relationship with our community. It is our role to take police action on your behalf. We do not act independently but as part of the community. If you, as a resident or a person employed in the Village of Kohler, have any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to reach out to your elected representative, a Village Trustee, or the Kohler Police Department directly. It is our goal to have every member of our community feel safe and have a trusting relationship with their police department.