October 1, 2015 | Posted by
Wisconsin is facing a little-known crisis in policing. An investigative report by Fusion reveals the state arrests Black children at four times the rate of white children. In Madison, the numbers were even worse. An article by Fusion revealed that Madison arrests Black children at eight times the rate of white children, according to FBI and Census data. Wisconsin has the second highest youth arrest rate the country.
Many of the children interviewed said they were apprehended for minor infractions. One teenager said he was ticketed for running in the street, while another was arrested for picnicking in the wrong part of the park.
The situation is so bad that Christen Justice, an 18-year-old Black youth, says he is thinking of moving out-of-state to go to college.
“My grandmother moved from Mississippi to Madison with me because she was told it was a great city. It’s so progressive, it’s so welcoming,” Justice told Fusion. “And it is great, if you’re white.”
Justice has had several run ins with local police. He was issued a citation when a friend of his was arrested for shoplifting. Later on police came and arrested him while he was on lunch break at his job at the mall. The officers said that while he could work at the mall, he was restricted from eating in the food court.
Justice views the Madison police as a threat.
“When I think about it, I figure that the biggest threat to my life is a police officer,” Justice said. “My biggest threat is the people who are supposed to be protecting you.”
Justice’s fears are justified. In March, Madison police officer Matt Kenny shot and killed his friend Tony Robinson, a biracial 19 year-old. Police said Robinson had taken drugs and was behaving erratically. Prosecutors declined to charge Kenny.
Lester Moore, a 16-year veteran of the Madison police force, acknowledges there is a problem. For years, he has urged the department to hire more minority officers and spend more time building relations with the Black community.
“We gotta start doing things differently,” Moore said. “A lot of people across the United States are upset with their policing, and some of it is for good reasons. If we’re not open to having the discussion about what you could do better, then you’re not serving.”
Moore is an old-fashioned neighborhood cop who patrols the Darbo-Worthington area of Madison. He is known to buy children birthday presents, talk with local mothers and support community events.
“Look at him, he looks like your uncle,” said LaToya Jackson, a neighborhood resident. “People trust Lester, but not all cops are are as friendly as Lester.”