I would like to address several issues in regards to happenings over the past week. First I want to thank everyone who gave their input on this issue. I am fairly confident I responded to every note that was sent to me. I learned a lot from some people-we have to grow to move forward, and also learned there is a lot of hate and anger out there without knowing all the facts. I will note that I am somewhat disappointed in some of the media for trying to push a race issue when this is not.
Here are some points that we are working on.
First no victim services have been lost and Embrace is still serving any and all victims in Barron County. How this continues will be under discussion when Department of Human Services Director Frolik returns as this falls under her department. There are more issues on this topic, including county policy issues that will be discussed.
Second, this has nothing to do with race. While vigorous debate is healthy in America I fear and have felt that we have taken a turn towards unhealthy dialogue in this country. Too often we set out with the intention of proving another person wrong rather than seeking to understand why we feel a certain way. The Sheriff's Department stands with everyone on unjust social, racial, equality and justice issues and will take on those issues with anyone, within our scope, to make sure everyone is treated the same, including any law enforcement officer with proven claims of unnecessary force. It will not be tolerated. I, and many other leaders in law enforcement, have been called lots of names and those of you that know me and your local law enforcement, know we care for everyone. While I wish this issue never came up, it turned out to be very good as it created a discussion that needed to happen and we will all learn from this.
The reason for our non-public withdrawal of our department’s support was due to a request for Embrace to not publically support any “movement” that supports defunding the police. (I have reviewed 2 articles that show some of these issues are about defunding the police and advocate for violence. While again I got this from the media and I am sure I don’t have the complete picture.)
There is an attack on law enforcement, but it is not here (in Barron County) and I think these comments by a partner in our department might create that feeling here and I was not ok with that. Again I was trying to show Embrace this could be an issue. I did not ask them to stop advocating or serving anyone.
Why is this important? Because these are the cops that they partner with and partnership is made out of trust. The request was made for them to focus on local advocacy, not problems that exist in other areas. This is about de-fueling extreme polarization in order to cultivate and foster a very necessary partnership. The counties Embrace serves are not statistically diverse and more importantly, there is no evidence of racism in law enforcement in our local area, again if there was it would not be tolerated. I also am not saying that racism doesn't exist because we are not diverse. I would hope they would concentrate their efforts on the drug and alcohol issues that we have in a majority of our domestic cases. Just like one victim not being served because of a sign or issue, one person being discriminated against is one to many. Their extremely firm stance in this feels like an act to attempt to marginalize the law enforcement agencies who responds to domestic violence calls, which are the most dangerous for them to respond to.
We can all be and do better every day, including law enforcement so that is why I am launching the Citizen Advisory and Action Team for the department. I am creating a diverse team that will advise and challenge, not only me and our department but this community. There was a lot of passion when I talked to people and as it was pointed out to me it is my job to bring it together. There was also a lot of anger and hate, a majority from outside Barron County, and we need to deal with that also. We will talk and tackle local social justice issues and other issues in Barron County. I am working on a grant to allow this group to be able to take action, maybe that would be bringing in a speaker to educate the community, maybe create a flyer to raise awareness on an issue or maybe it is to hold a picnic with law enforcement in an area of the county that may feel neglected, uninvited or a way to engage with them. I plan to have a member of the St Croix Tribal Community, Somalian Community, the African America Community, a Student, Faith Based community, Amish and Mennonite Community, a Recovering Substance Abuse Survivor and other people that will challenge all of us to make a difference. There was several people that sent me notes or comments in a very professional way that helped me come up with this idea. So I have decided I need to reach out more to get different views and perspectives. I hope this is successful so we are never in a spot like this again.
One thing I will note is that I stand with and for law enforcement and the stance we took with one of our trusted partners and I hope they also reflect on how we feel. We can all do better and we will. I am also glad that people continue to support Embrace. I worked with them for over a year trying to get this awareness and I am very happy for them.
Thank you for your time, and as we are all pushed to the limits emotionally among the pandemic and political issues, I am committed to working towards a solution for this issue that continues to protect our victims, works on social, justice, racial and any equality issues and protect our law enforcement. This is not about a win but to find a common goal to move forward together. We have and will stumble, emotions will get the better of us and that is ok because we will have others to help us up.
Have a great day and Thank You
Barron County Sheriff