$41 million coming to Wisconsin law enforcement, but specifics unclear

KENOSHA, WI – AUGUST 25: Law enforcement officers hold a line on August 25, 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. When the city declared the curfew for a state of emergency, there was a third night of civil unrest after the shooting of Jacob Blake, 29, on August 23. The video recording of the incident appears to show Blake being shot in the back by Wisconsin police officers several times trying to get into the driver's side of a vehicle. 29-year-old Blake was operated on for a severed spinal cord, broken vertebrae, and severe organ damage, according to family lawyers in published reports. (Photo by Brandon Bell / Getty Images)

After President Donald Trump's visit to Kenosha on Tuesday, the US Department of Justice announced That $ 41 million will be sent to Wisconsin to be spent on public safety.

The funds are a continuation of Trump's "law and order" rhetoric in the final months of the fall presidential campaign – which has made Kenosha a central theme.

Although this rhetoric of law and order is largely inconsistent with the gang of lawbreakers within his inner circle and his refusal to use violent actors like 17-year-old murder suspect Kyle Rittenhouse, who is accused of killing two protesters in Kenosha, or white supremacists in Condemn Charlottesville The President of Virginia spoke Tuesday about the need to support law enforcement and respond with violence to protests in "democratic cities".

According to the press release, the public safety money will be used for "community-based crime-fighting initiatives, local victim services, and the hiring and training of law enforcement officers and prosecutors."

“Thanks to efforts by federal law enforcement agencies and the National Guard in close collaboration with our state and local partners, the streets of Kenosha have been restored by violent agitators who have abused their first adjustment rights to scare citizens and ignite the flames of disorder. Attorney General Bill Barr said in a statement.

Federal law enforcement agencies have been on the ground in Kenosha since the first riot began in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Wisconsin law enforcement and the Wisconsin National Guard were also in Kenosha on the orders of Governor Tony Evers beginning August 24, the day Kenosha officials sought help. After the first three nights of protests included violence and property damage, the community was largely peaceful.

"As President Trump made abundantly clear today, this lawless behavior will not endure and the federal government will provide the necessary resources to aid state and local police officers who have worked hard to keep the peace and violence at bay," explained Barr continuation. "Today's grants will help strengthen community crime initiatives and provide much-needed support to victims of the recent violence."

The news release said the money will be used to recruit more police officers and prosecutors, and to receive grants through the Office of Justice Programs and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to “support proven violence reduction efforts like Project Safe Neighborhoods support".

The Wisconsin Justice Department did not respond to questions about how that money might be distributed or how the demand for more prosecutors might affect the state formula for distributing prosecutors to counties. The US Department of Justice did not answer similar questions.

A staff member in the office of Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine), a former police officer and one of the Wisconsin Legislature's most outspoken Republicans on police matters, didn't even realize the money was meant for the police and said he thought it was so go towards cleanup in Kenosha. Wanggaard did not respond to a request for comment.


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Even the Wisconsin GOP seemed to believe the money would help Kenosha. In one TweetThe state's Republican Party said Trump sent "tens of millions of dollars in aid to Kenosha," although most of the money is being used for law enforcement across the state.

Aside from Republican confusion over the direction of the money, some Democratic members of the legislature, including Assembly Minority Chair Gordon Hintz and Black Caucus Legislative Chair LaKeshia Myers, did not respond to requests for comment. Neither did Jim Palmer, the president of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association.

Sending more money to police departments is in direct contradiction to what some state activists advocate against police violence. In Madison, yells to "defuse" the police are common among organizers who say they want money to fund social services, not more cops.

Ion Meyn, a law professor at UW-Madison who studies racial differences in the legal system, says this response from the Trump administration is the opposite of what Wisconsin needs.

"We need more prosecutors and defense attorneys so that they can give the cases the examination they deserve," says Meyn. “We have too many police officers. We are way past the turning point. Officials give too many quotes, make too many arrests, and bury prosecutors with referrals. These actions continue to harm communities already in need. Imprisonment and collateral consequences cause financial stress, break family ties, alienate citizens and worsen health and behavior. "

A better answer, according to Meyn, is leading other cities across the country that have come up with alternative solutions to protect public safety.

"Cities like Eugene, Los Angeles, Denver and Olympia are channeling resources from the police to public health experts," he says. “In these places, a significant percentage of emergency calls from police officers are relayed to social workers and medical professionals. When police or rescue workers are needed, which is rare, the police are called as a last resort. This approach to public health identifies individual needs, supports families in difficulty, and helps rebuild communities. "

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