Wednesday, April 28, 2021

CJMC Seeks New Members

The County's Criminal Justice Management Council seeks community members to fill three open seats. According to County Board Chair Monica Kruse, "preference will be given to citizens who have felt the effects of the criminal justice system, have been active in promoting racial justice, have a strong interest in equity issues, or bring a diverse perspective. BIPOC, LGBTQ, and other marginalized community members are encouraged to apply."

Application letters are due by May 14. Include your name, address, phone number, and email address. Briefly state how your background qualifies you to serve on CJMC and how you will contribute to bettering our community. Email your letter of interest to or mail to: Monica Kruse, County Board Chair, 212 6th St. N., Room 2400, La Crosse, WI 54601.

We still have seen no tangible consequences for the person or persons who threatened and bullied a former CJMC member into resigning. It seems dealing with that lingering issue might be something the CJMC needs to address along with the City and the police chief. Applicants for these open seats might want assurances that the same thing won't happen to them

Response to complaints about that behavior have been lukewarm at best. One city council representative likened the actions to a teacher using her school email account to support a political campaign and claimed it was a "union issue" that couldn't be touched by the city. Maybe this person, too, was the recipient of police union bullying

As government employees, those serving in the criminal justice system must be held to professional standards, and, ultimately, must serve the needs of the community as defined by the community. It's clear that LTS of things need to be redefined.

Many cities are already rethinking how candidates for law enforcement positions are accessed and how communty needs can be best met by public employees. Here are a few examples:

The Washington Post recently published a whole series of articles about Reimagining Safety, including an excellent reflection on the personal qualities needed for a good "public safety" officer, by Cedric L. Alexander:

Legitimacy begins with the personnel our police agencies recruit. Most law enforcement organizations in the United States make hiring decisions based on such things as a clean criminal record, citizenship or naturalization documentation, possession of a driver’s license and a high school diploma or GED, performance on tests assessing cognitive skills and personality, adequate physical fitness, and the successful completion of training.

These are all important, but they leave out an essential element. Call it, if you will, heart.

By heart, I mean a deep empathy that prompts you to act — in the moment and righteously. In some four decades of work in law enforcement, I have seen heart work the miracles of service and valor police officers perform daily. I have also seen deficiency, corruption or absence of heart create the kind of tragedy and failure that killed Floyd and that marked much of what occurred at Capitol Hill on Jan. 6.

We don't have to keep doing things the way "it's always been." Many of the systems, assumptions, and practices we've inherited were set up originally to maintain an unjust, unfair, inequitable stays quo. The public has a right to define for itself what public employees will and will not do and to what end. Creative, passionate, courageous, knowledgeable, compassionate people on the CJMC and on other public boards and committees can make things better for all of us.

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