Glenn C. Hayes wants Whitewater’s next police chief to have leadership, integrity and accessibility.
Additionally—about four weeks out from Major League Baseball’s opening day—the president of the Whitewater Police and Fire Commission said he pictures his ideal chief as analogous to the opening-day pitcher for the defending World Series champions.
After a day full of interviews, tours and new faces, the two finalists to be Whitewater’s next police chief kept their smiles on a little longer during a meet-and-greet session Thursday evening.
Aaron M. Raap, 46, and Mike J. Scott, 53, chatted Thursday with a crowd fluctuating at about 18 people at the Cravath Lakefront Building, with city officials and council members largely present.
Raap is a former captain for the Milwaukee Police Department with more than 26 years of law enforcement experience. He is currently an operations manager in security for Ascension Health in southeastern Wisconsin.
Scott, who also has more than 26 years in law enforcement, would come from the village of Round Lake Beach Police Department in Illinois, where he is a deputy chief.
Whitewater Police Chief Lisa Otterbacher is retiring June 1.
Below are the responses each candidate gave Thursday after questions from The Gazette.
Q: What are the differences between Whitewater and where you have previously worked? What from your previous experience would help you in Whitewater?
Raap: While the frequency in some crimes is steeper in Milwaukee, people still care about similar things, Raap said. Thefts, burglaries and assaults are important to people in Milwaukee, as they are to people in Whitewater.
As he spends more time in Whitewater, Raap said he would learn more about what residents are worried about specifically, then make those a priority.
“Each city has its own problems, just like each patient has his or her own illness,” Raap said.
Scott: After spending time here, Scott learned there are more similarities than differences between the village of Round Lake and Whitewater. This includes the values and wishes of the communities, as well as police command staff restructuring and new records management systems for both departments, he said.
Scott stressed the importance of community involvement. The beginning of March marks Dr. Seuss month, and he had to miss reading at a local elementary school to be in Whitewater, he said.
Back in Illinois, Scott said they have held citizen police academies for teenagers and the Spanish-speaking community. A new one he thought he could bring to Whitewater would be with university students to show them the ins and outs of police work.
Q: What should police be doing to slow or stop the opioid and heroin crisis?
Raap: Police cannot arrest its way out of this problem, Raap said.
Arresting addicted offenders should not be the first thought in an officer’s mind, he said.
Community entities need to work and bring together their expertise, he said, because the epidemic affects everyone.
Raap said families should be involved, too.
“Knock on a door of a family or whoever and say, ‘Listen, we have your loved one here. They’ve been using these drugs, whether you know it or not. In lieu of arresting them for simple possession, here’s what we would like to offer up and work with you.’
“Wouldn’t you rather make that call, rather than, ‘Your son, daughter, husband, wife, whoever, spouse just died of an overdose? Because all we did was arrest them four times in a row and it just didn’t solve anything.'”
Scott: Scott’s department is a part of its community's local opioid initiative, which is a collaboration of several departments to help addicts dispose of drugs or paraphernalia and connect them with medical professionals, he said.
Scott said the officers he works with also carry Naloxone.
“I’ll bet we’ve saved 20 lives,” Scott said. “While you think of us as law enforcement, we’re also public safety and community caretaker.”
At one of their citizen police academies with teenagers, Scott said, he brought the coroner and the family of a heroin addict to speak to the group. Unfortunately, the addict had relapsed earlier that day, he said.
Q: Police have been under more scrutiny in recent years. How would you build or maintain trust between the community and the police department?
Raap: Some recent incidents involve police making “truly bad decisions,” Raap said, while some officers have been vilified before an investigation has been done.
Increasing police legitimacy and transparency are the main issues, Raap said. This is accomplished through everyday interactions with the community.
“Those interactions have to be as positive as possible,” he said.
Scott: After the uproar in Ferguson, Missouri, between the community and police, Scott said, they tried to build trust after the problem.
“We will be earning the city’s (and) the residents' trust before things go bad,” Scott said.
He wants the community to know him and his officers on a personal basis, so if people hear something bad that doesn’t fit with their understanding of the local police, they wait to rush to judgements.
Scott said he has already been in some of Whitewater’s restaurants meeting people.
The police and fire commission is meeting Friday, when it could decide which candidate to recommend. The city could then make a formal announcement next week.