Damakant Jayshi

Aiming to get public feedback on reforms in policing in the city, the Wausau Policing Task Force on Wednesday released an online survey through their partner agency. 

According to Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service (WIPPS), University of Wisconsin System which finalized the survey based on public and the task force’s input, Wausau residents and visitors can provide feedback “concerning experiences with law enforcement, including policies, procedures, and interactions with officers.” The survey – in English, Spanish and Hmong languages – can be accessed on WIPPS website. The questionnaire only relates to Wausau Police Department.

WIPPS will also mail a paper version of the survey to 5,000 randomly selected residences in Wausau.

“The results will be shared with the City of Wausau to help improve policing,” WIPPS said in a Tweet. Those taking the survey will not have to disclose their identity.

“Now we want the community to respond as much as possible,” John Robinson, chair of the task force, told Wausau Pilot & Review.

The task force engaged WIPPS to develop the survey as a part of 4-step process on implementing policing reforms. Prior to a meeting of the task force on Wednesday to consider the next steps, WIPPS had reached out to the group’s members, including those from Police and Fire Commission, to provide feedback on the survey before finalizing it. 

At the meeting, WIPPS Executive Director Eric Giordano said he preferred to wait until the end of July for the response to come back. They will then analyze the results and decide if they needed to reach out to any section of the community whose response is less in proportion to their population. Previously, Giordano told Wausau Pilot & Review he was also keen to get responses from inmates in county jail.

The Wausau Policing Community Survey has questions on police’s frequency of use of force, their training, and their overall performance, among others. The task force also reviewed The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing of 2015, A Blueprint for Change 2020: Opportunities to Evolve Policing in Wisconsin by Wisconsin Professional Police Association (WPPA) and the Speaker’s Task Force on Racial Disparities.

The survey follows a previously held listening sessions, the first stage on collecting public feedback. 

Once the survey is collected and collated, WIPPS will set up focus groups and try making them as representative of the community in Wausau as possible. There will also be focus groups comprising police and healthcare professionals. 

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.

The City Council formed the task force after Wausau Mayor Katie Rosenberg proposed forming the group in June 2020 in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in the hands of police in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death also spurred Nlack Lives Matter protests across the country. A Minnesota judge on Friday sentenced former police officer, Derek Chauvin, for 22 and half years for Floyd’s murder.

Wausau’s police reform initiative mirrors similar developments elsewhere. On June 22, Governor Tony Evers signed a bill banning police chokeholds. Two days later, a bipartisan panel of US Congress announced reaching an agreement on nationwide police reform

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 damakant@wausaupilotandreview.com.