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Panel aims to increase trust in community

The following Take 5 interview with Dr. Selika Ducksworth-Lawton appeared in the Feb. 23 edition of the Leader-Telegram and is reprinted with permission. Staff photo by Andi Stempniak. 

"Building an Interracial Community Through Policing in the Chippewa Valley," a panel discussion about race and policing she will moderate, to be held at 4 p.m. Thursday in Schofield Auditorium at UW-Eau Claire.

What was the inspiration behind "Building an Interracial Community Through Policing in the Chippewa Valley?

"Members of the university and Eau Claire communities of all races wanted to discuss policing and transparency after the upsetting events in November. We had a small panel with Eau Claire City Attorney Steve Nick, Eau Claire Police Chief Gerry Staniszewski and Lt. Jay Dobson of the UW-Eau Claire police. It was well-received, and well-attended for short notice. We promised a better publicized follow-up.

Who are the panelists and what do you expect them to discuss?

Eau Claire County District Attorney Gary King, City of Eau Claire police Chief Jerry Staniszewski, Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer, UW-Eau Claire police Chief David Sprick, State Office of the Public Defender attorney Laurie Osberg and UW-Eau Claire professor of criminology Randy Beger. They will discuss transparency, procedures, the goals of policing, why certain procedures are utilized, misunderstandings, as well as rights and responsibilities of the community and police.

How and why do you think views of police conduct often differ among races?

Race, geography, class, history, corruption and segregation create differing perceptions. African-Americans in Eau Claire are probably more positive about ECPD than whites in Milwaukee are about their interactions, for example. The issue is respectful interactions, effectiveness, transparency and trust. People who have had bad experiences will have less trust;in some geographies, certain communities are targeted for certain practices that erode trust. In urban areas, "revenue policing" (writing tickets for minor or petty infractions) creates a lot of conflict.

People who have good experiences have more trust. Because of culture, pretexting (racial profiling —assumptions based on race instead of behavior), profiling and what's called revenue policing in large urban areas, multicultural people and poor whites are more often targets of pretexting in large urban areas. For us in the Chippewa Valley, training in respectful interaction is extensive and ongoing.

Many Chippewa Valley residents surely believe the 2014 deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., are far removed from policing in the Chippewa Valley, but what kinds of concerns have you heard regarding race relations and policing in our region?

Concerns about transparency and pretexting are the most common.

What do you hope comes out of this event?

I hope that greater understanding on both sides and a greater sense of community, as well as more trust on both sides, will come out of this.

—Compiled by Eric Lindquist