An administrator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggested at a recent roundtable conversation that, in order to combat “overpolicing” in the community, police should no longer respond to shoplifting claims at large stores such as Wal-Mart, and shouldn’t agree to prosecute people caught stealing.
“I just don’t think that they should be prosecuting cases … for people who steal from Wal-Mart. I just don’t think that, right?” said UW-Madison director of community relations Everett Mitchell. “I don’t think [with] Target or all them other places, them big box stores that have insurance, they should be using justification, the fact that people steal from there as justification to start engaging in aggressive police practices, right?”
Everett’s remarks were made Tuesday as part of a UW-Madison panel on the topic of “Best Policing Practices.” Everett argued that community police shouldn’t prioritize enforcing the law, but instead should focus on achieving “safety” as it is defined by a local community, even if that definition includes allowing some stores to be robbed with impunity.
“We have got to a place where we are not longer able to define what safety means for us,” he said. “It is now being redefined over and over again in terms of what they think we want them to defend for us.”
Everett said that police were using high rates of theft at stores as an excuse for excessive policing.
“I go to these meetings and that’s what they throw up there on the table, ‘Look at where all this crime is happening, at the East Towne and the West Towne Mall, and the Wal-Marts and Targets, that’s where crime is happening, that’s why we have to focus so much’ … they do that all the time to justify why they’re going to over police our children.”
Everett admitted that thanks to his comments, “I may never get a job at Wal-Mart.”
Ironically, Everett himself once worked as an assistant district attorney.
Everett’s remarks were noticed by the watchdog group Media Trackers, which uploaded a video of his comments.
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