Praise for the police
Their opportunity came during the public comment session of a re-accreditation process being conducted by the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Accreditation Group.
The department first was accredited in 2000.
A team of three assessors—all law enforcement professionals—is examining Janesville police policies and procedures and the documentation that shows local cops are following 233 accreditation standards.
Only two of 16 speakers had questions or criticism of the department, but their comments were cut short by the team’s leader—Ann Wellens, chief of the South Milwaukee Police Department—because they did not address the accreditation standards.
Candy Schenck of Janesville asked if a resident could request a specific officer to handle a case and for the names of people serving on the police and fire commission. After the meeting, she said her questions arose from personal encounters with police.
K. Andreah Briarmoon, unsuccessful city council candidate, praised department personnel and procedures, then said:
“We could use a little more diversity. We’re pretty white—and male dominated.”
Then Briarmoon tried to use the forum to repeat the litany of complaints she has made for years at council meetings and elsewhere, chiefly that officers are used as tools of city government to trample personal property rights.
Wellens cut Briarmoon off twice because she was not talking about accreditation standards.
Accreditation not only instills internal pride and exhibits the department’s professionalism to the public, Deputy Police Chief Steve Kopp said before the meeting, but it also provides an element of liability defense if officers’ actions are criticized or questioned.
At the meeting’s end, Police Chief Neil Mahan noted that accreditation means continuous improvement, which his department is striving to accomplish.
He thanked the department’s personnel for their efforts to better their organization.
The public still can comment on accreditation in writing.
Residents can examine the department’s policies and procedures. Copies are available at the police department lobby, 100 N. Jackson St., and at the reference desk of the Hedberg Public Library.
Written comments should be addressed to: Wisconsin Law Enforcement Accreditation Group, 4760 Schneider Drive, Oregon, WI, 53575, or to Chief Ann Wellens at South Milwaukee Police Department, 2424 15th Ave., South Milwaukee, WI, 53172.
What the residents say
Here is a sampling of the speakers’ comments at a public hearing Wednesday night on the Janesville Police Department’s effort to be re-accredited by the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Accreditation Group:
-- Burdette Erickson, Old Fourth Ward resident: “I can’t say enough good about them. I’m sure I speak for my neighbors.”
The department responded “incredibly well” to drug houses in the neighborhood.
“The police department has changed our neighborhood. People used to talk about leaving. We don’t hear that any more.”
-- David Sleeter, director of Rock County 911 Communication: “The Janesville Police is operated very consistently and professionally.”
The 911 operation and local police have an “excellent working relationship.”
-- Sam Lathrop, Beloit police chief, said the two departments have a long history of cooperation and working together.
“It’s a high-quality organization with a solid reputation.”
-- Margaret Delaney, member of a group representing the Old Fourth Ward and Look West neighborhoods: “The drug houses are gone. … The police department helps the neighborhoods rid themselves of nuisance problems.”
-- Devan Dutra, member of the Janesville Police and Fire Commission, said the department has taken a more pro-active approach to problems in recent years.
“The police department has a pretty good reputation around here.”
-- Mary Ann Burkheimer, program director for the YWCA of Rock County’s CARE House: “Our collaboration with the Janesville Police Department has always been positive and professional in every way.”
-- Tom Evert, Janesville School District superintendent, presented an outline of 15 intervention and prevention activities, ranging from bomb threat and ongoing investigations to traffic control and gang presentations to school staff.
“All are excellent” was the written comment.
“We believe the Janesville Police Department is top-notch.”
-- Bob Spoden, Rock County sheriff: “We view our relationship as a partnership with the Janesville Police Department.”
As a city resident, Spoden said: “I’ve always been impressed with their response. I’ve always been impressed with their proactive approach. … They are open, honest and professional.”
-- George Brunner, city council member and former Janesville police chief, said the department’s personnel are held to high standards and meet them.
He praised the department’s efforts—such as participation in the national Night Out observance—to reach out to the community.
-- Lynn Jones of Community Action said residents of the Old Fourth Ward and Look West neighborhoods had a major issue in 2005 with coordination with police.
The issue has been mostly resolved because of increased communication between police and resident.
She described the department’s relationship with the neighborhoods now as open, proactive and supportive.
-- Christine Rebout, executive director of Janesville Area CrimeStoppers, said the group’s many accomplishments have been possible only because of Janesville police.
“It’s a privilege to work with the Janesville Police Department.”
-- Ilah Hartung, Old Fourth Ward resident: “I’m very proud to speak of the Janesville Police Department.”
Officers respond quickly and in force to problems, she said. “It’s very professional service … by the entire department.”