INQUIRE- the first thing we must always do is listen. Actively listen, with an open mind.
INFORM- we must answer the questions and concerns people have, and educate the community about who we are and what we do.
IMPROVE- the action step is to look for opportunities for US to to do better, to focus on the root causes of racism and biases so we can make things better for our community members.
Last Updated: 06/16/2020
I am writing this letter as a concerned citizen of Appleton regarding the unequal treatment of racial minorities across our country. Although nothing too concerning has come to my attention regarding our city but I believe we must play a role in ensuring that the social, financial, educational and judicial inequalities that exist amongst Americans are eliminated forever. As a member of ……..Muslim Community whose members have been persecuted in my country of birth and elsewhere, I relate to the injustice felt by victimized minorities. I believe the anger and frustration we see today in African Americans goes far beyond the history of slavery and segregation. It’s the result of socioeconomic deprivation, lack of adequate educational reforms and mistreatment of African Americans by law enforcement and the judicial system for decades if not centuries that has brought us to this breaking point. I would love to see more African Americans be a part of our law enforcement and judicial system rather than heartbroken citizens that have resorted to displays of public anger and protesting. I understand that this may require several years of diligent work put in and perhaps we may not see a visible change in our generation but we must start the process and radically change the way we invest in our communities particularly minorities like the African Americans. As a proud citizen of this country and resident of Appleton for about five years now, I do not endorse any shortsighted slogans like ‘defunding police’ or to stop our law enforcement from doing their job by placing undue restrictions on them, but every police officer should be accountable and held to a higher standard. We should invest in more training of our officers to deescalate a potentially violent situation rather than resorting to use of excessive force. Although incidences like the one in Minneapolis are still few but we cannot continue to ignore them and hope that this will not happen again. I would love to see ongoing dialogues between African American community leaders and law enforcement in town halls and other organized events so we can build trust and bring peace to our country again. Thank you for your leadership in this difficult time.
Thank you so much for your well thought out, and what I think is right on point, message.
We have been reaching out for decades, and will continue to as we hope to make our community more welcoming and safe to African Americans, and other people who may be marginalized or discriminated against in our amazing city.
I pray all is well. Thank you for this platform to share our questions.
On a recent call between faith leaders, Governor Evers, and Lt. Governor Barnes we were encouraged to ask our respective Chief of police if our county is practicing archaic manuvaures to subdue suspects or deadly choke holds.
I spoke with my parishioners and these are some of the questions they requested we collectively submit
- Does the Appleton Police Department use choke holds?
- Are all officers equipped with body cams and are the officers able to disable the cameras themselves at any time?
- What is the respectful and correct way to ask an officer why they’re being pulled over?
- Is a minor allowed to ask that his or her parent be present before they are questioned or forced to get out of their vehicle?
- How do we respectfully use our cell phone cameras when we are told not to?
Thank you Chief for your time and I look forward to your responses on the web page as we in unity move our city forward.
Great hearing from you again Pastor, hope you are well.
There is so much misinformation out there and we hope this platform is a safe way for people to get the facts.
- In 35 years as an officer in WI I have NEVER been trained in a choke hold, in fact we have been trained to always avoid the neck and head area, because as we all know it can be deadly and we would consider it a deadly use of force. Wisconsin is way ahead of other states with training and requirements for law enforcement and we agree that there are large parts of the country, like Minnesota, and many southern and eastern states, that need to change their training.
- Another topic nationally is the push for body cameras – the Appleton Police Department has had body cameras since 2009 – for 11 years. The policy is posted on our website to view. Officers are to activate them during contacts, and they can be disciplined for not activating them. We also have implemented technology that is called Auto Activation because some incidents happen so quickly, or are sudden assaults, that officers don’t have time to turn on the camera – they are grabbing their gun or grabbing an individual.
- If you are ever stopped, or pulled over for any reason, the officers should explain immediately why they stopped you. For example; “How are you doing, I’m Chief Thomas and the reason I stopped you is……, can I see your driver’s license/identification and proof of insurance please?” This is how officers are trained in our Professional Communication classes. If they don’t tell you why you were stopped just politely ask, “Officer, what are you stopping me for?”
- It depends on the age and the offense. If a 16 or 17 year old is driving they are operating under a license and will be treated the same as an “adult”. They can be ordered out of a vehicle just like an adult and we won’t wait for an adult to arrive to conclude our stop and any enforcement action. If it is a minor being interviewed for a criminal or other offense it depends on what the situation or offense is, but we always prefer an adult or parent be present in most situations like that.
- I don’t know who would tell you not to use a cell phone, if you are in public you are allowed to use your phone to record anything. We are always recording and don’t mind being recorded (if you are not proud of what you are doing you have nothing to worry about). We just ask that you not antagonize and disrespect the officer by shoving it in their face or by approaching a stop and getting too close to the stop. Keep a safe distance for yourself and the officer, you don’t know what is actually happening during the contact and tragically, like we saw during the transit center shooting last year, things can change quickly.
Greetings of peace. Thank you for your and Chief Todd Thomas’ May 29th message to the community following the tragic killing of George Floyd. As your constituent, I was heartened to read the reaffirmation of your commitment to addressing bias, making meaningful connections and building trust. As an American Muslim and member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, racial equality and absolute justice are a fundamental part of my moral values (“Love For All, Hatred For None” has been our motto over the last century). The Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) last words in his Farewell Sermon were on the very issue of racial equality. As such, each year in the Fox Valley our Women’s Auxiliary brings together people from diverse backgrounds at the Interfaith Peace Symposium to discuss how we can contribute to a more equitable society. This is just a start, and I know it will take systemic and institutional change to make a lasting impact. True change will involve strategizing, mobilizing, and unifying all segments of our society. It will involve real, inclusive, at times uncomfortable, dialogue. It will involve striving to fulfill other’s rights as we do our own. It will mean ensuring that all have access to fully participate in all aspects of society- and be valued. The black experience in America in particular has been one of perseverance. I hope as our mayor you will persevere long-term for the cause of justice, after the din of protests has died down. Just yesterday you announced the concrete step of starting the Appleton Police Chief’s Community Advisory Board to provide a forum for police-community interaction - that is great! I look forward to the systemic work you will do for the cause of justice and in making Appleton a truly exemplary city- one which others can look to as a model. Thank you for all the work you do!
I am very thankful for your message and we appreciate the wonderful, respectful relationship we have had with the American Muslims in our community.
We commit to continue to work on this and fight for those oppressed and marginalized in our community.
Last Updated: 06/11/2020
(We received the same question and comment, that appears to be copied and pasted, from several Lawrence University Students)
My name is________ I am a student at Lawrence University. I am emailing today to insist that Appleton defund the police department in favor of investing in more effective community safety measures. I believe that in order to build a city that can honestly welcome everyone, there need to be systems in place that work for everyone. It is clear to me that the current system of policing does not accomplish this goal.
Police brutality towards Black people has been a long-standing issue in police departments across the country, and Appleton is no exception. In 2014, Black people were 10 times more likely to be arrested by Appleton police than any other race, despite the fact that Black people make up less than 2% of Appleton’s population. Of the three people killed by police since 2013, two were Black: that’s 67%. Additionally, one reason there are so few Black people who live in Appleton is because up until 1970, it was a sundown town. These facts are only a few of many examples of the ways in which racism is deeply and systemically ingrained in our city’s structures and history.
The police state has proved time and time again to be unresponsive to reform initiatives, and it is time to end this violence and injustice. If Appleton chooses to divest from the police department, it would surely benefit the entire city by creating a safer and more welcoming environment. We must follow the example of cities like Minneapolis, MN, whose city council has committed to taking steps towards defunding the Minneapolis Police Department. In order to protect and support our communities, I urge you to take immediate steps towards defunding the Appleton Police Department and to instead fund non-violent community-led safety strategies.
Welcome to Appleton and thank you for your question. The idea of defunding police means different things to many people so I would need to know more about what you mean.
I would invite you to ride along with an officer, or attend our citizen’s academy to learn what the police in Appleton do.
The crime statistics you mention are very disappointing, but the majority of all arrests are not initiated or generated by officers, they are victim initiated. For example, they might occur when a store calls us to report a theft, or a battery victim calls us to report an assault. This is the deep discussion that needs to take place about inequity, bias, and racism in all our systems including government, health care, employment, education, housing, and opportunity.
Use of excessive force, or brutality, is not acceptable and I take the allegation that the Appleton Police Department is perpetuating the use of excessive force seriously. If you feel the Appleton Police Department has exhibited brutality towards black people, as you state, I would like to know what statistics or data you are looking at to make that serious allegation. Additionally, if you have specific incidents to share please contact me so we can have it investigated.
We are not a violent community or police department, in the last 10 years, each officer averages using force to the level of taking someone down to the ground, or using equipment against them, LESS than one (1) time a year; that is done while handling 40,000 calls for service and making 3,000-4,000 arrests a year. We have also not used a baton on anyone in over 10 years, something we’ve have seen a lot of on TV lately being done elsewhere. In my 35 years of policing we have never trained on the choke-hold in Wisconsin, and in fact, Appleton trains not to use it because it is dangerous and inhumane. We have had body cameras for almost 15 years and we brought Crisis Intervention Training to the state of Wisconsin. Additionally, the Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator position that is in the Mayor’s office was originally a Police Department position that we created over 20 years ago.
As far as those two tragic incidents you noted in your message, our officers responded to those scenes and did not initiate them. Both investigations were reviewed by the District Attorney and the reports were posted on the web if you want to review them. Both incidents were initiated by individuals drawing and firing a gun at someone. APD did not initiate those shootings. During one incident an innocent bystander, Jimmy Sanders, was tragically shot and killed as he stood behind the man with the gun. The second incident you mention was the Transit Center Shooting. I invite you to watch the video, though I note that it is graphic and disturbing. In the video, you will see patience and compassion from those officers. The suspect, who drew a gun and started randomly shooting at people at the transit center, killing a firefighter and injuring and officer, initiated that incident.
I would encourage you to learn about our community and our officers, we are not Minneapolis, Minneapolis PD, or that officer, but we know we can do better and are always seeking to learn.
In our last independent Community Survey (2018), which was done by Silver Lake College, a computer generated random sampling of our community including Black, Hispanic, and other ethnicities, was completed.
- Over 95% of our community trusted us to varying degrees. 86% said they trusted us a lot or to a great extent, and only .6% said they did not trust us.
- Only 2.1% said they were dissatisfied with the overall performance of the Appleton Police Department.
We have ongoing community discussions and meetings, and we will continue to have them, because we know we can do better and the community’s needs are always changing.
We have a number of informational items here that you can review including our Use of Force Analysis, complaints on personnel, and our Use of Force Policy.
Last Updated: 06/10/2020
In order to prevent police from potentially moving from one department to another after termination, do you believe that there should be an independent system for monitoring and/or licensing police officers' ability to be employed in law enforcement? For example, in the case of a state bar removing or suspending a lawyer's ability to practice law in the case of a severe infraction? I would argue a police officer has equal or greater ability to impact a person's life or wellbeing.
Great question because there is some inaccurate information out there. For an officer to be employed in the State of WI they need to be “certified” by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Training and Standards Bureau. An officer can be “decertified” for many reasons including committing certain crimes, not completing required training, and falsifying information.
Below is information if you would like to review it.
This is independent and reviewed and managed by the DOJ. You mentioned attorney regulation and licensing, the fact is that attorneys are regulated and disciplined by the Supreme Court and Office of Lawyer Regulation. And an integral part of that is the district committees which are comprised of mostly attorneys. Below is information on the system attorney use.
By what metrics do you judge the legalization of marijuana to be impacting the public good negatively? Do you see any positives yourself? Why do those negatives outweigh the (potential) positives? I'd like to know why you believe researching the issue would result in an anti-legalization stance.
Thank you for your question, there are numerous reports by health officials, law enforcement, and by independent sources that document the negative impact recreational drugs has had in states like Colorado and California. I also know there are plenty of other reports that challenge those that are put out by other sources and activist groups. Personally, I don’t care about how much revenue can be created if it harms a child or undermines the safety of a community. The facts are it does, and for me that makes it a deal breaker. Below are just some facts from Colorado from the attached report;
- Since recreational marijuana was legalized, traffic deaths in which drivers tested positive for marijuana increased 109 percent while all Colorado traffic deaths increased 31 percent
- Past month marijuana use for ages 12 and older increased 58 percent and is 78 percent higher than the national average, currently ranked 4th in the nation.
- The yearly number of emergency department visits related to marijuana increased 54 percent after the legalization of recreational marijuana (2013 compared to 2017).
- The legalization has done nothing to address the disproportionate arrest rate for black citizens compared to white citizens. While the number of total arrest is obviously down, black people account for 3.8% of the Colorado population but 9.4% of marijuana possession arrests. https://www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/Colorado_Marijuana_Arrests_After_Amendment_64.pdf
This is a very complex discussion that needs a deeper discussion with health professionals, educators, and many other stakeholders.
How many black officers do you have on your force?
We currently have 2 Officers who are African American out of our 111 Officers.
I have always admired the APD, your leadership, and the work you all do to connect with and support the community. My family has experienced firsthand your dedication to supporting all members of the community — including vulnerable populations. I know your commitment to community policing is genuine. I also feel deep sadness and caring for members of the black community who are expressing their pain and sharing their personal experiences with racism. I want them to know that, not only do black lives matter, they more than matter — they are truly valued and they enrich all of our lives. How can we community members show our support for our black friends and neighbors and also show our support for APD officers?
I have been a citizen of Appleton for 20 years. One of the reasons that I have chosen to live in Appleton is the sense of security that the city provides. I recognize that the Appleton Police Department plays a large role in providing that security. What are some suggestions that can I do to help support the APD?
We can all commit to listening and treating everyone with respect. We are all husbands, wives, brothers and sisters, children and parents and we all want the best for our community – don’t let hate and media stories divide us, we all can do better.
Is there any system where the Appleton Police Department does psychological evaluations on new recruits, veterans and administrations and continues to monitor all the employees throughout their careers? Do you think this may help to prevent police brutality, corruptions and find help for those employee individuals?
I did discuss our psychological testing in one of the questions above, we also send new supervisors to a psychologist to evaluate their ability to be the leader we want. If an officer is having performance or other issues we do have the ability to send them for an assessment. I think it should be required for anyone in this profession, and for anyone in many other professions that don’t currently do them.
I am interested in the 8 Can't Wait initiative through Campaign Zero, aimed at reducing police violence. https://8cantwait.org/ Which of these 8 steps do you already have in place as a department and how would you proceed with implementing the others? I spoke with Police Chief Olson on Saturday and heard some of his views. I'd like to hear yours since you represent and serve the community where I live and teach. I would also like to talk with you and Mayor Woodford about the My Brother's Keeper Alliance. https://www.obama.org/mbka/
We have posted on this on our facebook page. I’m familiar with MBKA and would encourage you to contact our Diversity Coordinator, Karen Nelson, and she can explain the programs she has in place and we have been working on that are similar to this.
I would like to know your thoughts and what other ideas you have about implementing strategies to make our community more inclusive, responsive and attractive to families of color.
We have been implementing programs for decades to be a more inclusive and responsive agency. The diversity and inclusion position started in the Police Department under Chief Myers decades ago. We have continued in that tradition by community conversations and partnerships, continual training on competencies and fair and impartial policing, bias awareness training, and best policy practices. We also have multiple forums and safe opportunities to engage with us and partner with us in programs and initiatives.
Last Updated: 06/08/2020
What steps is APD planning to make sure every person is protected and every life is valued?
We have always focused on not only making every person safe, but being an open and transparent department and engaging with everyone we can in the community to help them FEEL safe.
What military hardware does the department have and would they be willing to part with it as a step toward fixing the problem of police violence?
It would depend on what you consider “military hardware”. We don’t have riot gear and riot shields like you see in other cities, we do share a rescue vehicle that is used for weapons offenses to protect officers and citizens if we have someone armed and barricaded. That is a lifesaving piece of equipment that we absolutely need.
How are your officer’s trained to safely and effectively de-escalate a situation?
De-escalation has been the cornerstone of our training and agency philosophy for a generation. We start with hiring the right people who have gone through a thorough background investigation and psychological testing. We focus all our training on verbal dialog and stepping back from a conflict to calm the situation. The majority of our officers are Crisis Intervention trained, something we brought to the state of WI, and we have been leaders in the state by training all our staff in Fair and Impartial/Bias training.
How many “strikes” does an officer in the department get before they are dismissed? What constitutes a “strike”?
We don’t view discipline as a strike, a single violation could be cause for dismissal, it depends on the severity of the offense. The penalty for the first violation of some policies, such as use of force or truthfulness, could be termination.
Who does the department answer to in terms of training and hiring?
Ultimately, we answer to the community and I am the one responsible. The civilian Police and Fire Commission does personally interview and approve or deny every officer that we hire and every supervisor we promote.
Would you say that decisiveness or patience is the more important quality in a police officer?
Officers must have both, but patience and self-control are probably some of the most important personality traits an officer must have.
Do the police departments have any input into the way that officers are trained in colleges and tech schools?
The State of Wisconsin, Department of Justice - Training and Standards Board, decides the recruit academy training curriculum, which is 720 hours long. After the initial academy it is the agencies decision, for the most part, on how they train their officers.
How can we change the questions on the psychological test? Is it available for the public eye?
Every officer goes through a complex psychological evaluation with a Psychiatrist from out of the area. It is a process that lasts about 4 hours and includes an in depth personal interview. They take the MMPI-2-RF personality profile to evaluate their overall personality and well-being. They are also administered the CPI Policy and Public Safety Selection Report which assesses their ability to be successful. They also take the WAIS-III IQ assessment for overall intelligence, abstract reasoning, and verbal intelligence – very important areas for us in law enforcement.
I don’t know any other profession that undergoes this type of evaluation, but we should be holding ourselves to the highest standards because the community grants us the ultimate authority and responsibility. You can search these assessments to see what they contain.
Do you promote confrontation within the Appleton Police Department?
No, we do not promote confrontation, we believe in treating everyone with dignity and respect is something we will always encourage.
Chief Thomas, I saw signs with the statistic that the Appleton Arrest Rate is 30% higher for blacks than whites. Is this true?
The arrest rate is disproportionately higher for black citizens than for white citizens, nationally, in Wisconsin, and in Appleton. We would need to see where their numbers are pulled from to respond accurately to the 30% number. There are Violent, Property, Drug, Society, and other Crime Arrest Rates that we have looked at. The overwhelming majority of arrests are Victim/Witness Initiated, not officer initiated, and that is what drives our arrest rates.
We train to not act on biases, and to not act on Bias by Proxy (others calling us on people of color for improper or racist reasons). To have a productive discussion on this involves peeling the layer of the onion back and looking at inequities in opportunity, education, healthcare, and our society as a whole.
When an officer does not follow guidelines and the incident leads to death what process of review and accountability exists? Does it involve civilian review/input?
Our incidents are investigated by an outside agency at the direction of the District Attorney. The District Attorney for the county it occurs in makes a determination if there is a criminal violation or criminal negligence. We also do an internal review of our critical officer involved incidents and post that on our social media pages for the public to view. We also post our reports and the entire investigation on the website for everyone to review for themselves.
We have a civilian oversight board of five (5) community members who interview and approve of every officer and every promotion. They are my boss, they hire and fire the police chief. They members of the Police and Fire Commission are recommended by the Mayor and approved by the City Council.
Those who feel they have had their rights violated also have the opportunity to have attorneys, many who are more than happy to work for free, file a civil claim against the department.
Appleton Police Officers arrests 30x non-white compared to white citizens. A great deal of these charges are for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The Chief has spoken out against legalization or decriminalization. Is the Chief willing to change his stance to help this end?
I responded to the 30% questions above, but the statement about marijuana arrests is false and has been falsely used by pro-marijuana advocates. We have few arrests for “small amounts of marijuana”, and the fact is that many of those that are cited receive deferred prosecutions and the DA has a process in place to divert them. If you look at the data from those states that have legalized recreational marijuana I believe you will see it has done more harm to the health and safety of the state than it has done good, I can’t in good conscience approve of something that causes more harm than good.
I understand and applaud the brotherhood that officers have. However, how can an officer be comfortable, protected and willing to report or intervene against a fellow officer?
It is done by creating a culture of accountability and pride. We instill in all our employees the responsibility they have to hold not only themselves accountable, but also their co-workers. We have had officers who have brought concerns forward about other employees and we swiftly address them.
What new policies are being introduced to Appleton Police Officers to stop unnecessary violence?
I would encourage you to go to our website and review our policies and our use of force analysis. We don’t condone any violence by or against anyone. We know that the authorization the community gives us to use force is the greatest authority we have; and it is also our greatest responsibility. That is why we are transparent with everything we do and you can review our policies and analysis on Appleton PD website.
Would you consider having a 5 minute warm up to make sure your officers are in the right mindset to protect and serve?
We have actively promoted wellness and were recently recognized as having one of the Top 5 Employee Wellness Programs in the entire nation (National Law Enforcement Memorial and US Department of Justice).
How can your police officers treat black people equally if you only have 1 black man on your force?
We actually have two (2) black officers, which Is just under 2% of our department, and the most recent census is that 3% of Appleton’s population is black. While only they know what it is like to live as black men in our city, we all know how to treat people equally and fairly. We also have many Hispanic and Southeast Asian officers, as well as other ethnicities.
Chief, how will you get the officers out that are known racists in Appleton? Why did you think it was appropriate to escalate with a line of officers on College Ave Sunday night?
If we have officer who has made it through our extensive background investigations including social media, three interview panels, a lie detector test, and a psychological evaluation who exhibits racism, we will fire them.
I would encourage you to look at some of the video on social media to see what happened during the protest. The line you are referring to happened after the protestors surrounded a car being driving by a female and start pounding on it, pulling on the doors, and throwing things at her windshield. We entered to extricate her from the scene for her safety and the safety of others. Accountability for that falls on the protestors who were not being peaceful.
If you were there you also saw how our officers than marched with the protesters back to Houdini plaza, danced with them and had civil discussions with them, and blocked off the 100 block of South Appleton Street so they could continue to dance and safely protest.
If you have additional questions please email me directly at APDfeedback@Appleton.org.
Chief Todd Thomas