By Damakant Jayshi
As part of the ongoing process of recommending reforms in policing, the Wausau Policing Task Force (WPTF) will meet June 30 to receive updates on and finalize a survey questionnaire that will likely be distributed next week.
The survey follows a listening session conducted previously. Chair of the task force, John Robinson, told Wausau Pilot & Review that the feedback received during the listening session will help design the survey questions. Once the feedback comes back and is analyzed, Robinson added, the task force, with the help of the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service (WIPPS) under University of Wisconsin System, will set up focus groups in the summer. The WPTF has engaged WIPPS to coordinate collecting and collating the community feedback.
WIPPS Executive Director Eric Giordano told Wausau Pilot & Review that they will mail out the paper form of the survey to a random 5,000 Wausau residents next week if mailing issues like pricing are sorted out.
“Else, we will mail it out the Monday after the July 4 holiday,” he said.
The group plans also to unveil an online version of the survey. Respondents will get about three weeks to submit or return their feedback.
Though the paper survey will be mailed to 5,000 residential addresses in Wausau, outside residents working in the city, as well as others from neighboring cities, will also be able to respond online if they so choose.
“However, they can only comment on the practices and policies of the Wausau Police Department,” Giordano said, adding that he expects about a 20% return, about 1000 of the city’s residents.
The City Council formed the task force on Wausau Mayor Katie Rosenberg’s recommendation in June 2020 in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last year. Floyd’s death also spurred widespread Black Lives Matter protests across the country. A Minnesota judge on Friday sentenced former police officer, Derek Chauvin, for 22 and half years for the murder of Floyd.
Wausau’s police reform initiative mirrors similar developments elsewhere. On Tuesday, Governor Tony Evers signed a bill banning police chokeholds. Two days later, a bipartisan panel of the U.S. Congress announced reaching an agreement on nationwide police reform.
Robinson and Giordano said the goal of the initiative was to reform policing practices to better serve the community.
“We are trying to understand the policies of the police department with regard to their hiring, training, use of force and disciplining of officers,” said Robinson, who is also a Dist. 4 supervisor from Marathon County.
Giordano said that WIPPS will make sure the survey represents the voice of all demographics in the city to ensure a response “reflective of the city’s population.”
Once the survey is collated, the officials said, they will set up focus groups and try making them as representative of the community in Wausau as possible. Focus groups of police and healthcare professionals will also discuss the feedback from both the listening sessions and survey and make recommendations.
As a final step, the Wausau Policing Task Force plans to hold a public hearing and make the final recommendations on police reform to the mayor and City Council.
Damakant Jayshi is a reporter for Wausau Pilot & Review. He is also a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of GroundTruth Project that places journalists into local newsrooms. Reach him at email@example.com.