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Supporting and Honoring Wisconsin’s Law Enforcement Heroes is Now More Important Than Ever



By: Dean Smith; President, Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association

As the President of the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, I have the honor to work and communicate on a daily basis with law enforcement personnel throughout the state. These men and women do so much more for their communities than just wear a badge. They are active in the fabric of their cities, villages, and towns. They take pride in where they live and are a vital part of the communities they serve. They also need the support of local and state elected officials more than ever.

You don’t need to look far to find examples of our law enforcement officers facing criticism. Social media is filled with examples of people playing Monday-morning quarterback on the appropriate law enforcement role. It’s discouraging to so many of our officers and leads directly to the types of recruitment problems police departments across Wisconsin are facing today with the lowest number of officers in over a decade serving their communities.

I was encouraged to see the Wisconsin Legislature take time in March to publicly praise Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association members and their officers. At a time with so much negativity, a simple act like this goes a long way. Officers like Michael Theilke of Sheboygan, Noe Mar-Garcia of Beloit, and Josiah Kaetterhenry of Wausau are heroes fighting to improve their communities.

Theilke led an investigation that resulted in the takedown of an international narcotics dealer. Mar-Garcia removed ten illegal firearms from the streets of Beloit. Kaetterhenry twice saved a life during active suicide attempts. Those are stories that people should hear more of – Wisconsin’s Legislature should be praised for their work honoring these local heroes.

It’s also highly encouraging to see Legislators fighting to provide our police with the tools and resources they need to keep our streets safe. A recent package of reckless driving bills passed the Wisconsin Assembly attempting to crack down on actions that endanger our residents. Other bills that penalize rioting and go after carjacking are examples of common-sense solutions that will go a long way toward keeping Wisconsin safe.

Looking ahead, we need the Legislature and its leadership to continue boldly partnering with law enforcement. Our departments are underfunded and our municipalities need more money to continue progressing against the violent criminals that terrorize our communities. Officers like Theilke, Mar-Garcia, and Kaetterhenry are great examples of the lengths law enforcement go to protect the communities they serve in a wide variety of ways.

Law enforcement must be a priority in the upcoming debates around the state budget. The Legislature should explore funding solutions – like more money for our municipalities via shared revenue – that give law enforcement the additional resources needed to keep Wisconsin safe.

Our Legislature understands. Speaker Vos and Majority Leader Lemahieu should be applauded for their efforts to address violent crime through the recent package of common-sense crime bills. The Legislature’s recognition in honoring the brave men and women serving our communities has not gone unnoticed by law enforcement. Our police officers and the residents of Wisconsin should know they have partners in the efforts to have Wisconsin continue to be a great place to raise a family, build a business, and safely enjoy the many wonderful things our state has to offer.

Dean Smith is the Chief of Police of the City of Oshkosh Police Department. He has 35 years of law enforcement experience, with 7 years as Chief of Police. He currently serves as the President of the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association.


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