- Associated Press - Monday, January 22, 2018

The Capital Times, Jan. 17

It’s sickening that Ryan refuses to call out Trump’s racism

Donald Trump is a racist, as he has repeatedly demonstrated. The controversy surrounding his recent remarks regarding immigration policy highlights the extent of his racism. Much of the media focus with regard to those remarks was on the vile language he reportedly used in decrying immigration from Haiti, El Salvador and African nations. But the far more telling aspect of Trump’s ranting and raving was the juxtaposition of the president’s open disdain for immigration from countries where the vast majority of the people are black or brown with his enthusiasm for immigration from overwhelmingly white Norway.

Trump’s constant apologists - who, in so many senses, are more troublesome than this unstable president - made the usual excuses.

That was bad enough.

But the most unsettling responses were those of the Republican career politicians who obliquely recognized that Trump had said something horrible but sought to diminish the consequences of a presidency echoing the crude politics of the neo-fascist movements that are on the rise in Europe. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, was, as usual, the most atrocious of the quibblers. Ryan, who has failed miserably as a leader on immigration reform, said amid the outcry over Trump’s remarks: “I read those comments later last night. So, first thing that came to my mind was very unfortunate, unhelpful.”

“Unhelpful”? That’s what you say when someone forgets to clear their place at the table.

People can debate whether Ryan seeks to downplay the damage done by Trump’s words because he is sympathetic to the sentiments but disapproves of the president’s language, or because he has some broader objection. That debate will go on because Ryan refuses to call out the president he serves so faithfully.

Ryan has made it his mission to cover for Trump even in the worst of circumstances. Even when Trump’s racism is on full display. It is sickening that a representative from Wisconsin would be so subservient, yet this is what Ryan chooses to contribute to the national discourse at a critical point.

Former state Rep. Mandela Barnes, who last week entered the race for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, got to the point when he said: “Until the likes of Paul Ryan and Scott Walker condemn Donald Trump, he not only speaks for them, he speaks in chorus WITH them.”

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Wisconsin State Journal, Jan. 17

Another community adopts cop cameras, while Madison falls behind

Another community has jumped ahead of Madison and the Dane County Sheriff’s Office in equipping its law enforcement officers with body cameras.

Dodge County Sheriff’s deputies started wearing uniform cameras last fall, thanks to a $79,500 grant that paid for the devices. Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt reports positive results, according to the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen. Besides holding deputies more accountable, cameras let officers collect more evidence to fight crime.

That’s why more and more police agencies are adopting the small, light and increasingly durable cameras that can be attached to an officer’s shirt, shoulder, glasses or hat.

Most police departments in Dane County equip their patrol officers with body cameras or plan to do so soon, a State Journal survey found. Many of the state’s largest cities also use the technology - including Milwaukee, where video from uniform cameras showed officers chase and fatally shoot a 23-year-old man who fled from a traffic stop with a handgun. The man was throwing his weapon over a fence as the first of two bullets hit him. After viewing the video, a jury found the officer not guilty of reckless homicide.

Had a similar shooting occurred in Madison, the jury and public would have had to speculate about what happened - rather than seeing with their own eyes actual footage of the pursuit and use of deadly force.

Former Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, who helped the Obama administration encourage police agencies across the country to modernize standards and accountability, calls body cameras a “no-brainer.”

Yet most of the brains on the Madison City Council are still resisting progress in policing, claiming the cameras are too costly and invasive. The City Council even rejected Ald. Paul Skidmore’s modest request to test cameras on the city’s North Side, which would have cost just $123,000 for 47 cameras and related equipment.

Concern for privacy is understandable but overblown. Wisconsin’s open records law already lets police agencies withhold or redact police video if the potential harm from its release outweighs the public interest in transparency.

Janesville was one of the first cities in Wisconsin to put cameras on officers, and its police chief told the Janesville Gazette that the balancing test works well.

Unfortunately, the Republican-run Assembly - with support from Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney - wants to be much stricter. The Assembly has approved AB 351, which in some cases could stop police from releasing video even if it exonerates officers. To its credit, the GOP-run Senate has not acted on the bill.

Supporters of the proposal haven’t identified any body camera video that was released in Wisconsin and should not have been. So where’s the problem?

If small, medium and large communities across the state can use this technology to improve policing and public safety, Madison and Dane County can, too.

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The Journal Times of Racine, Jan. 18

Wanggaard’s bill puts crime victims first

A judge’s order of restitution doesn’t make a criminal incident magically disappear, nor does it remove the memory of the incident from the victim’s mind. It’s an attempt by the judge to make things right for the victim by ordering the convicted person to pay back the victim for criminal wrongdoing against that person.

The problem with Wisconsin’s restitution laws is that the actual victim is not always the first person to receive money when a convict’s wages are garnished. Legislation introduced by state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, aims to correct that.

While the Senate version is currently in the Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform, Senate Bill 397 and Assembly Bill 476, if passed, would make two significant changes to how victims of crime currently receive restitution.

If passed, Wanggaard said this bill would put the victims first in line for payment.

“The victims would be reimbursed before, say, a government entity,” Wanggaard said. “If there’s multiple victims, then those victims would split that garnishment equally until it’s paid off.

“Normally what ended up happening is you would have the larger (institutions) that are owed the big money would be paid first. Like the insurance company and the state, they would get their money first and the victims are left hanging. They wouldn’t get anything or it would take forever (to get paid).”

The bill would be applied, Wanggaard said, if a judge orders any restitution and it would apply to all crime.

The bill also would change some of the paperwork for the victim seeking restitution.

Currently, for victims to be paid they must file paperwork with the courts and the convict’s wages would be garnished for only 13 weeks. For the payments to continue after that point, the victim would need to apply again.

Wanggaard said the bill would eliminate the 13-week period provision and instead would require victims to apply just once for them to begin receiving payment.

“Once they file, until they’ve been made whole, that (payment) continues,” Wanggaard said. “So they don’t have to keep reapplying and reliving whatever the (crime) was when it occurred.”

These are all common-sense measures. The person directly victimized should be the first compensated, and once the court has the victim on record, it should be the court’s responsibility to maintain the record-keeping regarding one of the worst days of the victim’s life, not the victim’s responsibility.

When a judge has ordered a defendant to pay restitution to a crime victim, the victim shouldn’t have to wait for the reimbursement to begin. Sen. Wanggaard’s bill is a step in the right direction.


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