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Appleton Police Chief discusses defunding the police during Community Update

Local News

(WFRV) – Appleton Police Chief Todd Thomas joined WFRV Local 5 This Morning for a Community Update. He discussed a police force study that will be released, a recent mental health presentation held, and recent protests and the ‘defund the police’ movement.

Your department conducted a 10-year use of force study – why?

“Use of force – that’s probably the greatest authority the community gives to a police department,” Chief Thomas explains. “In return, I think we have a tremendous responsibility to use it appropriately and also to be transparent about it.”

The Appleton Police Department releases its review of the use of force within the community on the City of Appleton’s website.

On July 8, the department’s Behavioral Health Officer held a presentation on your mental health programs and initiatives – can you tell us about that?

Since 2009, the Appleton Police Department has had a mental health program. In 2004, the department began crisis intervention training – Chief Thomas says his department brought this to Wisconsin and the initiative has since spread throughout the state.

“Our focus is to identify those people that are suffering from mental health issues in our community,” Chief Thomas says, “make sure we educate our officers on how to properly respond to those calls and divert them from the criminal justice system. If they have a mental health issue, we do not want them in the criminal justice system – we want them getting the resources and the services that they need.”

Chief Thomas says the department has been working with community members and other stakeholders to have law enforcement be less involved in the programs for years now.

What are your feelings on recent protests and calls for defunding the police?

“Defunding the police – I think we’ve all seen what happens when that happens in other parts of the country in the past,” Chief Thomas explained. He discussed how the crime rates in Seattle, Baltimore, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee were affected by the defunding of the police.

“I think we need to localize that discussion. Some will say – I will say – that we’ve been defunding the police for years. We’ve been trying to do more with less, struggling under the budget restrictions that we have from the state. So I think we’ve been defunding for years and it’s the matter of making it a local discussion. What I hear from our community when we have community surveys is they want to see officers more and they’re wondering why they don’t see them in their neighborhood, why aren’t they doing more speeding enforcement, why aren’t they taking care of this issue or that issue. So I think that’s why we have to have a local discussion and stay away from that national narrative that may not apply to us.”

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