Woman: Give police grant money to teen center

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Stacy Vogel
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
— One supporter of a community center created a stir at last week's city council meeting.

Tonya Partee, Janesville, would like to put a teen center in a proposed community center at the vacant Case Feed building.

She's asking the city to give her a grant normally given to the police department for the project.

Partee, who is black, told the city council last week the police don't deserve the grant after using it to "harass" minorities and residents of the Fourth Ward and Look West neighborhoods.

She said she has first-hand knowledge of police behavior.

In 2004, Janesville police executed a search warrant at her home looking for illegal activity. They found no drugs, but a woman in the house was arrested on a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia.

In 2007, police arrested Partee on a charge of cocaine dealing. The arrest was part of a "drug sweep" paid for with a federal Project Safe Neighborhood grant. The charge was dropped in February.

Partee said she has never sold drugs. She thinks she was targeted because she has four teenage children, so teenagers are constantly coming and going at her house, she said.

"They (the police) are sitting around stereotyping every African American in that area," she told The Janesville Gazette on Monday. "I think it's racial profiling, harassment."

The police tell a different story. The report from the 2004 incident says police found evidence of drug dealing, including plastic bags with the corners cut off and $800 cash, in Partee's bedroom.

In 2006, a confidential informant was able to buy $50 in cocaine from Partee, leading to the 2007 arrest, interim Chief David Moore said.

The charge was dropped because the informant refused to testify, Moore said.

Moore said he reviewed the cases involving Partee and found no racial profiling or inappropriate behavior.

"The police department does not arbitrarily pick members of the community and then decide if they're selling drugs or not," he said. "We have citizens come to us who tell us who is selling drugs and where drug houses are."

Partee said she plans to sue the city for the way she was treated. She wants the city to give the Project Safe Neighborhood grant to a teen center she would run.

"I believe we need a teen center for the children, the teens, because I know last summer there was nothing for them to do," she said.

The grant doesn't work that way, Moore said. It's given to law enforcement agencies to clean up gang, drug and other neighborhood problems.

Besides, the city doesn't expect to receive the grant this year, he said, making Partee's request a moot point.

Partee said she'd continue to push for a teen center even if the grant isn't available.

"I'm just tired of our kids being targeted in Janesville," she said.

Last updated: 9:51 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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