July 21, 2016
[Madison, Wis.] – In advance of a “National Day of Action for Black Lives” protest at the headquarters of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association (WPPA), the police group’s executive director, Jim Palmer, issued the following statement:
The WPPA fully respects and supports the inalienable right of all Americans to engage in free speech. The ability to exchange diverse and opposing views can help the public become more informed and the government more representative of the people it serves. Regardless of the views expressed by others, the WPPA and the dedicated men and women of law enforcement that it represents will staunchly defend the free expression afforded by our Constitution.
In that vein, it is disappointing that the event being held today at the WPPA’s headquarters is based upon a fundamental misunderstanding of our role in representing Wisconsin’s law enforcement community and the progressive manner by which we have approached the sensitive issues surrounding policing in America.
As the state’s largest law enforcement group, the WPPA’s mission is protect and promote public safety, as well as the interests of the dedicated men and women that serve to provide it. The WPPA safeguards the rights and protections afforded any citizen which law-enforcement officers do not forfeit simply because of the uniform they wear. Contrary to the misinformation that has been disseminated by the organizers of this event, the WPPA does not prevent officers from being held accountable. In fact, no one wants a bad cop out of the profession more than a good one.
For example, in direct opposition to the propaganda advanced by the organizers of today’s demonstration, police contracts in Wisconsin do not provide officers under investigation with any special rights. In fact, while it is uncommon in other states for the officers involved in critical incidents to voluntarily cooperate with investigations into their conduct, it is commonplace in this state, in large part because of the WPPA’s facilitation.
The WPPA is proud to have charted a responsible course unlike that of any other police group in the country. To that end, we point to the following:
• The WPPA help leaded the charge in support of legislation making Wisconsin the first state in the nation to mandate the independent and transparent investigations of officer-involved deaths;
• The WPPA is the only police group in the country to annually conduct and analyze scientific polling on a wide variety of law enforcement related issues, which we then openly
share with the public so as to advance an informed dialogue in communities across the state;
• The WPPA has openly supported the use and proliferation of body cameras, the increased collection and examination of data on law enforcement interactions, the expansion of
restorative justice alternatives, cultural competency training, and many other related programs and initiatives.
Moreover, the WPPA has not resorted to divisive or defensive responses to the concerns that some have about policing, and it has publicly rebuked those who would have attempted to blame the Black Lives Movement for the recent senseless murders of law enforcement officers in Texas and Louisiana.
It seems clear that the organizers of today’s protest have paid almost no attention to the WPPA’s record and the work that we have done and will continue to do. Instead, they have sought to paint us with the same kind broad brush approach to which they themselves have objected.
Positive change in America will only come from an informed and broad-based dialogue that incorporates the diverse views of many. While we regret the misguided decision to target this organization in light of its progressive leadership, we nonetheless appreciate the opportunity to correct the record and help improve the public’s understanding of the WPPA, what we do, and who we are. We will continue its efforts to forge relationships with those who seek an open and honest exchange and who wish to collectively explore ways in which we can strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the communities it serves.