How do you propose to incorporate mental health professionals into the way we police our communities?
We expect too much from our police. The skill set required to stop a bank robbery is different than that required to talk a suicidal person off a ledge. There is growing consensus that we need to incorporate mental health professionals into emergency response. I support creating a crisis response team similar to Denver’s Support Team Assistance Response. The Denver program sends a mental health professional and paramedic team out to mental health emergencies instead of police. The Mental Health Tax could be used to finance a pilot program for Winnebago County. I support such a program only if it is administered separately from the Sheriff’s Department.
The board has no control over how the sheriff runs his department, but I do hope they consider a co-responder program, in which a mental health professional accompanies police on calls. Funding for this program should come out of the Sheriff’s budget, and not the Mental Health Tax.
What do you propose to do to improve the cultural competence of law enforcement?
The County Board does not have the authority to impose training requirements on the Sheriff’s Department, but clearly there is a need for improvement in cultural competence. Implicit bias reduction training is typically proposed as a solution, but must be rigorous in order to achieve results. Research in this area is advancing and it is essential we use state-of-the-art training methods and infuse their lessons into the culture of our police departments.
We must acknowledge that implicit bias is just one component within a larger environment and affects individuals of disadvantaged groups differently. It’s important for law enforcement to directly listen to the communities they serve, allowing those communities to help determine what defines cultural competence and work with professionals to determine how best to gain competency for officers.
What is your plan to reform law enforcement to ensure that officers are held accountable for misconduct and to make police disciplinary records transparent to the public?
Again, the board does not have control over the Sheriff’s Department, but it is clear that a culture where police are held accountable for bad acts is a culture that’s good for police and good for the community. We all benefit from the implementation of a clear use-of-force policy — and a system that keeps police accountable to it. The Sheriff’s Department should be a partner with the community when it comes to FOIA requests, rather than doing everything possible to evade scrutiny.
How do you propose to safely reenergize the local economy amid the coronavirus pandemic?
The key to reenergizing the economy is controlling the virus. We cannot have a healthy economy without healthy people. We all wish the pandemic would end, but wishing will not make it so. Masks, social distancing, disinfection, and ventilation are keys to economic survival, keys we must embrace. Many of our local businesses have creatively embraced these keys, some have not.
This pandemic is a natural disaster and our bars and restaurants need disaster relief from the federal government. Local and state elected officials should be urging Congress to provide relief, keeping our local businesses alive, so that when we fully defeat the virus, our economy can rebound quickly.
How do you propose to restore a shared sense of responsibility for the common good?
My plan to restore a shared sense of responsibility for the common good in District 4 is to invite the people in this community to play a role in solving two problems I’ve been hearing about from voters. I’ll hold monthly meetings to discuss general county business, but also focus on these two issues: limited options for yard waste disposal in unincorporated areas and the need for one or more east-west bike paths connecting the eastern portions of the district to the Stone Bridge Trail. Working on common goals builds relationships and builds community, even among disparate types of people.
Discuss one or two other issues that are high priorities for you and how you would address them in office.
The county is in the midst of a chaotic leadership crisis that few were talking about until board members Jean Crosby and John Butitta succeeded in placing the county executive referendum on the ballot. I helped get the referendum on the ballot and encourage voters to vote “yes” for visible, accountable, consistent leadership for the county. Whether the referendum passes or fails there will be work to do on the leadership question. I’ve conferred with board members in counties that have the county executive regarding how best to set it up. And if the referendum fails, I look forward to providing a fresh perspective, unencumbered by establishment ties, on the chair issue.