Tag Archives: missouri

WashU stops intubation training using cats, ending practice in US

Washington University in St. Louis said that it has stopped using sedated cats to train medical students how to insert breathing tubes down babies’ throats, effectively ending the practice in the U.S.

The university’s School of Medicine said in a statement that after a “significant investment” in its simulation center, it will now provide neonatal intubation training using only mannequins and advanced simulators, effective immediately.

The school said improvements in simulators made the change possible. Cats currently at the university are being adopted by employees of the medical center.

“In the 25-plus years the university has relied on cats in teaching this procedure, none was harmed during training,” the statement read.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a medical ethics nonprofit, applauded the decision, saying the practice was cruel to animals and unnecessary for students. The group said it was the last of the 198 U.S. pediatrics programs still using cats.

“The best way to teach emergency airway intervention is on human-relevant training methods. I commend Washington University for switching to modern methods,” said Dr. John Pippin, director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee.

Washington University’s use of cats has drawn criticism in recent years, with critics contending that the animals suffer pain and injuries ranging from cracked teeth to punctured lungs. Protests broke out in 2013 after an undercover video of the university’s training in pediatric advanced life support was released by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The video shows a trainee putting tubes down the throat of a sedated cat, sometimes struggling to get it right. However, the medical school continued using sedated cats in other training programs prior to Monday’ announcement.

But university officials have said the lab consistently met federal Animal Welfare Act standards, including passing an inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture soon after the PETA video.

Other teaching labs have used simulators for years, but Washington University previously cited research indicating that pediatric doctors in training only succeed in 20 percent to 35 percent of their initial attempts to intubate infants, justifying the need for animals in training.

The program previously used ferrets, too, but university spokeswoman Judy Martin said ferrets have not been used for many years.

Sanders conceded Missouri to Clinton

Bernie Sanders said Thursday he will not seek a recount of results in Missouri’s Democratic presidential primary, conceding defeat to Hillary Clinton.

“I think it’s unlikely the results will impact at all the number of delegates the candidate gets and I would prefer to save the taxpayers of Missouri some money,” Sanders said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“Whether we win by 200 votes or lose by 500, it’s not going to impact the delegate selection,” the Vermont senator added. “It’s going to be evenly divided.”

Clinton ended Tuesday night with a narrow lead of 1,531 votes, but under state law, Sanders could have sought a recount because the margin was less than one-half of one percent.

Clinton will get an extra two delegates from Missouri for winning the statewide vote.

The win in Missouri means Clinton won all five of Tuesday’s Democratic primary contests. She also beat Sanders in Florida, Ohio, Illinois and North Carolina.

The Republican race in Missouri remains too close to call between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Even though winning Missouri gives Clinton two additional delegates, she remains tied with Sanders at 34, with three delegates remaining to be allocated in the state. Democrats award delegates based on the share of the vote, both statewide and in congressional districts. Clinton was on track to come out ahead with one additional delegate, pending final vote data in two congressional districts.

Clinton now leads Sanders in pledged delegates from primaries and caucuses, 1,147 to 830.

When including superdelegates, or party officials who can back any candidate, Clinton has a much bigger lead – 1,614 to 856.

Wisconsin puppy mill breeders exposed in new report

How much is that doggie in the window, the one with the waggly tail? The cost — measured in suffering — is high if a puppy mill supplied the dog to the store.

The Humane Society of the United States in May issued The Horrible Hundred: Puppy Mills Exposed, with a state-by-state breakdown. It is not a comprehensive list of bad breeders, but rather an annual report that offers a sampling of the problems in the breeding industry.

In Wisconsin, this means it’s likely there are more puppy mills than the four identified in the report.

“There are approximately 10,000 puppy mills in the U.S. and they exist in every state,” said Melissa Tedrowe, Wisconsin state director for The Humane Society of the United States. “Although Wisconsin is not one of the top five puppy mill states, it still has a significant number. And for every one that The Humane Society of the United States is aware of, there may be twice as many that are operating in the shadows, unlicensed and unreported.”

Canines for commerce

A puppy mill is a dog-breeding business in which the physical, psychological, and/or behavioral needs of the dogs are neglected due to inadequate housing, shelter, staffing, nutrition, socialization, sanitation, exercise, veterinary care and inappropriate breeding.

The Humane Society compiled The Horrible Hundred report from inspections by federal and state agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

The report reveals widespread problems in the U.S. puppy breeding industry, as well as gaps in laws and enforcement.

Missouri and Kansas continue to shelter the greatest number of problem dealers for the third year in a row — 23 in Missouri and 16 in Kansas, followed by Nebraska at 14, Iowa at 11 and Arkansas at seven.

Partly as a result of greater public scrutiny and stronger laws, nearly two dozen problem breeders identified in 2012 and 2013 closed down.

Still, puppy mills continue to be relicensed year after year in the United States. Many dogs in these facilities are inbred and overbred, receive minimal veterinary care, poor quality food and water and little socialization and exercise.

Repeat offenders

Among the Wisconsin breeders exposed in The Horrible Hundred, John Zeiset, operator of Lone Pine Kennels in Thorpe, is classified as a repeat offender in the report.

Last June, a USDA inspector found a Cavalier King Charles spaniel at Lone Pine Kennels in Clark County with an “open and discharging laceration on the bottom of its neck,” which appeared to be caused by an embedded chain collar. The gash was untreated.

In December 2014, a state inspector found at the kennel excessive feces, unsafe conditions and more dogs in need of veterinary care, including an underweight 15-week-old Maltese puppy with one eye “completely sealed shut from dried mucus.”

In New Holstein, federal and state inspectors repeatedly cited Brooknook Puppies, operated by Herman Gingerich, for issues related to unsanitary and unsafe conditions. USDA inspectors reported excessive cobwebs, debris and rodent droppings, excessive piles of feces and excessive temperatures. State inspectors noted similar problems. The most recent state report, dated December 2014, indicated improvements but feces remained an issue, as well as a lack of adequate grooming at the Calumet County facility.

The report identified two other problem breeders in Wisconsin: Mose Bontrager in Hillsboro, and Alvin and Esther Nolt in Thorp.

In a February inspection, officials determined Bontrager’s kennel in Vernon County had not been cleaned for a week, apparently because the owner left town. The inspector noted “lice nits in the fur of several dogs,” matted dogs, dogs with fur “dirtied with excrement due to unsanitary conditions,” a dog with nails so overgrown the animal could not properly walk and a “significant and unacceptable accumulation of excrement in whelping enclosures.”

The inspector also observed a Siberian husky with three puppies kept in an outdoor enclosure with only a cracked igloo-type shelter and other puppies housed in a corncrib, with no other protection.

The report said Bontrager was selling puppies wholesale without the required USDA license.

At the Nolts’ facility in Clark County, federal and state inspectors repeatedly found problems with sanitation and animal care, according to The Horrible Hundred. Last November, a state inspector noted piles of feces, dogs without adequate protection from the cold, puppies with their feet falling through holes in wire flooring and several dogs in need of veterinary treatment. One dog later was euthanized due to “several tumor-like growths” near the ear, along with a wound that was open and bleeding. In March, a USDA inspector said the kennel was now compliant.

Several animal welfare watchdogs contacted WiG to report the four breeders in Wisconsin are Amish, and that conditions at their facilities were indicative of how the Amish treat animals, as resources rather than pets.

Lisa Williams, founder of a Florida-based rescue program, worked as an investigator for a national animal rights group. “I investigated three puppy mills, two of them Amish,” she said. “Depending on how many dogs they have, they can make around $100,000 per year just by selling puppies. I went to a farm with over 400 dogs in two small barns. They think nothing of keeping them in small wire cages and never letting them out for their entire lives. Trucks come to the farms in the night and pick up puppies to move to pet stores. I watched them do that. It broke my heart.”

Tedrowe said, “No one should neglect the proper care of their animals, Amish or otherwise. There is no excuse for animal cruelty. That being said, The HSUS has found puppy mills with dreadful conditions operated by people of all creeds. We really need to place the focus on the conditions that animals are living in, not the lifestyle of the owners.”

Efforts to reach the Wisconsin breeders were unsuccessful as of WiG’s deadline on May 20.

Meanwhile, some animal welfare advocates responding to The Humane Society report said more must be done to close the mills.

“We’ve accomplished a lot in the past five or six years, but we must do more. We can always improve,” said activist and dog-rescuer Monette Barrett of Milwaukee.

Law and enforcement

Legislation signed in 2009 by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle went into effect in mid-2011 and set minimum standards of daily and veterinary care for dogs and established a licensing program for breeders and sellers that annually market more than 25 dogs from more than three litters and prohibited the sale of puppies less than 7 weeks old unless sold with their mothers. The law provides for an inspection process and requires that certificates of veterinary inspection or health certificates accompany dogs sold or adopted for a fee. The inspectors evaluate the general care of animals, conditions of indoor and outdoor enclosures, transportation of dogs, animals’ ages, record keeping and health certificates.

The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection website says the intent of the law “is to protect the welfare of dogs and to protect consumers who buy or adopt them.”

Act 90, dubbed “The Puppy Mill Bill” as it moved through the Legislature, passed with unanimous support in both chambers. Doyle’s signature on the measure was hailed as a milestone. Before passage, Wisconsin was one of the few states with no regulation of dog sellers or shelter operators. The federal Animal Welfare Act also requires minimum standards.

“But the standards are just that — minimal survival standards,” said Tedrowe.

In the first year, the DATCP inspected 339 breeders, dealers and sellers and reported that 289 earned a state license. Concerns resulted in 35 facilities receiving conditional licenses. The state denied three applications and other cases involved facilities that either went out of business or reduced the number of dogs sold to less than 25 per year.

On the first anniversary of the law, Yvonne Bellay, animal programs leader for DATCP’s animal health division, said, “We’ve taken a great first step this year toward protecting the welfare of dogs in Wisconsin.”

Still, animal welfare advocates want more protections for future pets, specifically tools enabling the rapid removal of dogs from unsafe and unsanitary conditions and putting repeat offenders out of business.

But they also stress the important role consumers play in either propping up puppy mill operations or closing them down: Puppy mill operators breed dogs for the money, not the love of breeding dogs.

“It isn’t easy for the USDA or the state Department of Agriculture to simply shut down a breeder just because they had some violations,” Tedrowe said. “Often they have to go to court in these cases, which can be a costly and lengthy process. That’s why the public really has to take part of the responsibility.”

Consumer watchdogs

Animal welfare advocates caution people against purchasing a puppy from a pet store or over the Internet, because the dogs commonly come from puppy mills. And the only way for potential buyers to know if they are purchasing from responsible breeders is to visit breeders in person and see how and where their puppy was raised, according to The HSUS.

“If every person who purchased a puppy took the time to visit the breeder and ensure that the dogs are living in good conditions, puppy mills would cease to exist,” Tedrowe said. 

In Wisconsin, people should be wary of purchasing a dog:

• If they are denied access to where animals are sheltered

• If the seller cannot provide a certificate and details about health care

• If the animal is being sold on the Internet

• If a seller or an advertisement fails to have a license number from the state.

A license does not guarantee a breeder is providing humane conditions for dogs, as evidenced by the four Wisconsin breeders listed in The Horrible Hundred. But a license means the breeder is inspected and being monitored, making it possible to identify problems and expose bad operations.

“The HSUS estimates that across the country there are as many as two unlicensed breeders for every one that is licensed,” said Tedrowe. “That is why we recommend that no one ever purchase a puppy without personally visiting the breeder to see where the puppy was raised. And, of course, we always encourage adoption from an animal shelter as the very best way to find a best friend.”

On the Web …

To download the full report, go to www.humanesociety.org/100puppymills.

Action alert

People who suspect a puppy mill should report the operation to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection at datcp.wi.gov. If you witness cruel or inhumane treatment of an animal, you can also report the issue to the local animal shelter and law enforcement. Also, HSUS operates the Puppy Mill Tipline at 1-877-MILL-TIP and, for information, a micro site at apuppyisnotaproduct.com.  

— L.N.

Want to reach the reporter or the newspaper. Email

Obama ends long-running transfer of military gear to police

President Barack Obama ended long-running federal transfers of some combat-style gear to local law enforcement on May 18 in an attempt to ease tensions between police and minority communities, saying equipment made for the battlefield should not be a tool of American criminal justice.

Grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or higher will no longer be provided to state and local police agencies by the federal government under Obama’s order.

“It can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message,” he said.

Obama made his announcement in Camden, New Jersey, where he praised efforts by the police department to improve their relationship with a poor community struggling with violence.

With police under increased scrutiny over highly publicized deaths of black suspects nationwide, Obama also unveiled the final report of a task force he created to help build confidence between police and minority communities. And he issued a broader appeal for Americans to address racial disparities and the needs of poor communities before they erupt into disorder.

He also reiterated his call for overhauling sentencing practices for nonviolent drug crimes.

“We can’t ask the police to be the ones to solve the problem when there are no able-bodied men in the community or kids are growing up without intact households,” he said.

In Camden, Obama visited the police Real-Time Tactical Operational Intelligence Center and watched live video displays of city neighborhoods being monitored by officers. He also stopped by a community center where he met with young people and local police officers.

Ahead of his Camden remarks, Obama stopped briefly in nearby Philadelphia to praise its police and fire officials for their quick response to last week’s deadly Amtrak wreck.

In addition to the prohibitions in his order, Obama also is placing a longer list of military equipment under tighter control, including wheeled armored vehicles like Humvees, manned aircraft, drones, specialized firearms, explosives, battering rams and riot batons, helmets and shields. Starting in October, police will have to get approval from their city council, mayor or some other local governing body to obtain such equipment, provide a persuasive explanation of why it is needed and have more training and data collection on its use.

Programs that transfer surplus military-style equipment from the Pentagon and other federal agencies have been around for decades, but Congress increased spending to help departments acquire the gear in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.

The issue of police militarization rose to prominence last year after a white police officer in Ferguson fatally shot unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown, sparking protests. Critics questioned why police in full body armor with armored trucks responded to dispel demonstrators, and Obama seemed to sympathize when ordering a review of the programs that provide the equipment.

“There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don’t want those lines blurred,” Obama said in August.

The review, published in December, showed five federal agencies spent $18 billion on programs that provided equipment, including 92,442 small arms, 44,275 night-vision devices, 5,235 Humvees, 617 mine-resistant vehicles and 616 aircraft. At the time, the White House defended the programs as proving to be useful in many cases, such as the response to the Boston Marathon bombing. Instead of repealing the programs, Obama issued an executive order that required federal agencies that run the programs to consult with law enforcement and civil rights and civil liberties organizations to recommend changes that make sure they are accountable and transparent.

The report from the 21st Century Policing task force has a long list of recommendations to improve trust in police, including encouraging more transparency about interactions with the public. The White House said 21 police agencies nationwide, including Camden and Philadelphia, have agreed to start putting out never-before released data on citizen interactions, like use of force, stops, citations and officer-involved shootings. The administration also is launching an online toolkit to encourage the use of body cameras to record police interactions. And the Justice Department is giving $163 million in grants to incentivize police departments to adopt the report’s recommendations.

Sacramento, California, Mayor Kevin Johnson, the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, praised Obama’s actions, saying they “show how serious he is about doing this now and doing this right.”

Justice Department: Extensive discrimination by Ferguson police

A Justice Department investigation found sweeping patterns of racial bias within the Ferguson, Missouri, police department — with officers routinely discriminating against blacks by using excessive force, issuing petty citations and making baseless traffic stops, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the report.

The report marks the culmination of a months-long investigation into a police department that federal officials have described as troubled and that commanded national attention after one of its officers shot and killed an unarmed black man, 18-year-old Michael Brown, last summer.

It chronicles discriminatory practices across the city’s criminal justice system, detailing problems from initial encounters with patrol officers to treatment in the municipal court and jail.

The full report could serve as a roadmap for significant changes by the department, if city officials accept its findings.

The Justice Department investigation found that black motorists from 2012 to 2014 were more than twice as likely to be stopped and searched as whites, even though they were less likely to be found carrying contraband, according to a summary of the findings.

The review also found that blacks were 68 percent less likely than others to have their cases dismissed by a municipal court judge. And from April to September of last year, 95 percent of people kept at the city jail for more than two days were black, it found. Of the cases in which the police department documented the use of force, 88 percent involved blacks.

Overall, African Americans make up 67 percent of Ferguson’s population.

The Justice Department began the civil rights investigation following the August 2014 killing of Brown, which set off weeks of protests. A separate report to be issued soon is expected to clear the officer, Darren Wilson, of federal civil rights charges.

The report provides direct evidence of racial bias among police officers and court workers, and details a criminal justice system that through the issuance of petty citations for infractions such as walking in the middle of the street, prioritizes generating revenue from fines over public safety.

The practice hits poor people especially hard, sometimes leading to jail time when they can’t pay, the report says, and has contributed to a cynicism about the police on the part of citizens.

Among the report’s findings was a racially tinged 2008 message in a municipal email account stating that President Barack Obama would not be president for very long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”

The department has conducted roughly 20 broad civil rights investigations of police departments during the six-year tenure of Attorney General Eric Holder, including Cleveland, Newark, New Jersey and Albuquerque. Most such investigations end with police departments agreeing to change their practices.

Justice Department officials were in St. Louis on March 3 to brief Ferguson leaders about the findings, a city official said.

Ben Crump, the attorney for the Brown family, said that if the reports about the findings are true, they “confirm what Michael Brown’s family has believed all along, and that is that the tragic killing of an unarmed 18-year-old black teenager was part of a systemic pattern of inappropriate policing of African-American citizens in the Ferguson community.”

Timeline of events in Ferguson, Missouri

A timeline of key events following the fatal police shooting of an unarmed, black 18-year-old in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.

AUG. 9 – Michael Brown and a companion, both black, are confronted by an officer as they walk back to Brown’s home from a convenience store. Brown and the officer, who is white, are involved in a scuffle, followed by gunshots. Brown dies at the scene, and his body remains in the street for four hours in the summer heat. Neighbors later lash out at authorities, saying they mistreated the body.

AUG. 10 – After a candlelight vigil, people protesting Brown’s death smash car windows and carry away armloads of looted goods from stores. In the first of several nights of violence, looters are seen making off with bags of food, toilet paper and alcohol. Some protesters stand atop police cars and taunt officers.

AUG. 11 – The FBI opens an investigation into Brown’s death, and two men who said they saw the shooting tell reporters that Brown had his hands raised when the officer approached with his weapon and fired repeatedly. That night, police in riot gear fire tear gas and rubber bullets to try to disperse a crowd.

AUG. 12 – Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson cancels plans to release the name of the officer who shot Brown, citing death threats against the police department and City Hall.

AUG. 14 – The Missouri Highway Patrol takes control of security in Ferguson, relieving St. Louis County and local police of their law-enforcement authority following four days of violence. The shift in command comes after images from the protests show many officers equipped with military-style gear, including armored vehicles, body armor and assault rifles. In scores of photographs that circulate online, officers are seen pointing their weapons at demonstrators.

AUG. 15 – Police identify the officer who shot Brown as Darren Wilson, 28. They also release a video purporting to show Brown robbing a convenience store of almost $50 worth of cigars shortly before he was killed, a move that further inflames protesters.

AUG. 16 – Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declares a state of emergency and imposes a curfew in Ferguson.

AUG. 17- Attorney General Eric Holder orders a federal medical examiner to perform another autopsy on Brown.

AUG. 18 – Nixon calls the National Guard to Ferguson to help restore order and lifts the curfew.

AUG. 19 – Nixon says he will not seek the removal of Ferguson prosecutor Bob McCulloch from the investigation into Brown’s death. Some black leaders questioned whether the prosecutor’s deep family connections to police would affect his ability to be impartial. McCulloch’s father was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty when McCulloch was a child, and he has many relatives who work in law enforcement.

AUG. 20 – Holder visits Ferguson to offer assurances about the investigation into Brown’s death and to meet with investigators and Brown’s family. A grand jury begins hearing evidence to determine whether Wilson should be charged.

AUG. 21 – Nixon orders the National Guard to begin withdrawing from Ferguson.

SEPT. 25 – Holder announces his resignation but says he plans to remain in office until his successor is confirmed.

SEPT. 25 – Ferguson Chief Tom Jackson releases a videotaped apology to Brown’s family and attempts to march in solidarity with protesters, a move that backfires when Ferguson officers scuffle with demonstrators and arrest one person moments after Jackson joins the group.

OCT. 10 – Protesters from across the country descend on the St. Louis region for “Ferguson October,” four days of coordinated and spontaneous protests. A weekend march and rally in downtown St. Louis draws several thousand participants.

OCT. 21 – Nixon pledges to create an independent Ferguson Commission to examine race relations, failing schools and other broader social and economic issues in the aftermath of Brown’s death.

NOV. 17 – The Democratic governor declares a state of emergency and activates the National Guard again ahead of a decision from a grand jury. He places the Ferguson Police Department in charge of security in Ferguson, with orders to work as a unified command with St. Louis city police and the Missouri Highway Patrol.

NOV. 18 – Nixon names 16 people to the Ferguson Commission, selecting a diverse group that includes the owner of construction-supply company, two pastors, two attorneys, a university professor, a 20-year-old community activist and a police detective. Nine of its members are black. Seven are white.

NOV. 24 – The St. Louis County prosecutor announces that the grand jury has decided not to indict Wilson. During ensuing protests, at least a dozen buildings and multiple police cars are burned, officers are hit by rocks and batteries and reports of gunfire force some St. Louis-bound flights to be diverted.

Young Gifted and Black Coalition: Open letter to Madison Police Chief Michael Koval

An open letter to Madison Police Chief Michael Koval from the Young Gifted and Black Coalition:

Dear Police Chief Koval, 

We are writing you to explain our position and our demands as they relate to your police department. 

First, we think that in comparison to departments in other cities you have done well in protecting our right to free speech at our weekly actions. 

Our targeting of the police department relates to the violence that Black people have faced at the hands of police in the murders of Dontre Hamilton in Milwaukee, Eric Garner in New York City, Michael Brown in Ferguson, and countless others, but it also relates to the violence of heavy policing and arrest rate disparities in Madison. 

Although Madison’s model of community policing and attempt to build trust between the community and police, even acting as “social workers,” may be a step above certain other communities, our arrest rates and incarceration disparities still top the nation. The relationship that we desire to have with the police is simple: no interaction. Our ultimate goal is to be able to hold our own communities accountable and to expel what we consider an occupying force in our neighborhoods. Our people need opportunities for self-determination, not policing. 

The situation in New York City where police have decided to police less, has led to no changes in the crime rates. Thus we can draw the conclusion that decreasing policing in our communities will not lead to an increase in crimes. It is also safe to assume that decreasing policing in our communities will lead to a decrease in the disparity rates we see in Dane County. 

We understand that the system of policing and incarceration is closely linked to the system of slavery and the continued oppression of black people. Our ultimate goal is finding alternatives to incarceration and policing, and our steps forward as a community should reflect the values of community control and self-determination. 

One of our publicly-stated demands is for the immediate release of 350 Black people from the Dane County Jail, with the ongoing demand to keep this number out of the jail in order to remove 350 beds from the facility. This means that, every month, 350 Black people must be prevented and/or diverted from entering the jail, as there are typically 3,900 Black people that cycle through the jail every year. This would eliminate the need for 350 beds in the jail, and also eliminate the need for renovations due to safety and mental health concerns. If there was no structural racism, the jails and the arrest rates should be proportional to the demographics of the population. In a jail of 800, without structural racism and a demographic of 5% Black population there should be closer to 40 Black people, rather than the 400 Black people currently incarcerated. 

Therefore, we demand that Madison and Dane County act swiftly to address structural racism and bias. One of the key reasons that Black people are incarcerated is because of poverty. Jails should not function as poor houses. 45% of people who are incarcerated, are incarcerated because they have not paid bails of $1,000 or less. Therefore, they are not incarcerated for a public safety concern, but rather because they are poor. The proof of this, is that people with money, who have bails of both less and more than $1,000 are not kept in jail—and this is not considered a public safety issue. Therefore we demand the immediate release of people incarcerated due to crimes of poverty. 

This includes arrests for crimes of poverty such as public urination, intoxication, sleeping, retail theft for survival, and low level citations. 

While this is a goal that needs the involvement of other areas of government such as the Municipal and Circuit Judges, other police departments, judges, the DA, prosecutors, Clerk of Courts, public defenders, and those in our community with influence in areas such as education, employment, housing, and health, you and the MPD do have a large role to play. We also include the Mayor’s office, the Criminal Justice Council, and the Common Council as decision-makers in these areas. 

We want to see a plan for how the Madison Police Department is going to do the following to address racial disparities:

Dramatically reduce the number of police contacts with Black people and poor people. 

Significantly increase voluntary referrals to community-led resources and programs when police do contact Black people and poor people. 

Cut in half the number of Black people and poor people arrested to address racial disparities 

Of those arrested, refer as many people as possible to community-led alternatives to incarceration. 

Given that the arrest rate shows that Black people are eight times more likely to be arrested than white people, we demand that disparity cut in half by the end of 2015. (While our emphasis is on the disparity, we also desire to see fewer arrests for everyone–not just Black people–that Madison police come into contact with.) To do this will require an immediate and thorough public review of all Madison Police Department policies and practices to determine which need to be changed or eliminated in order to immediately reduce the racial disparity in arrest rates. 

We want to see the plan involve accountability measures. For example, if you do not reach a particular goal, there will be potential for a funding cut or some other consequence. Also, we would like your plan to include a citizen review board for questions of police misconduct in addition to Public Safety Review Board and the Police and Fire Commission. We aim to move towards community controlled policing with advisory boards in communities throughout Madison and Dane County. We also need you to follow the recent advice of the Department of Justice and release data about arrest demographics in order to address racial disparities. 

Your plan may include diversity training and recruitment of people of color as staff; however, we do not see these steps as significant remedies to existing problems. We believe that change needs to happen at a systemic policy level. It will also involve closer connection to social service agencies and increased restorative or transformative justice programming. 

Your plan should seek to identify best practices from other locations, but not be limited to them, as this is a problem that faces many cities around the country. We need to think outside the box, and we want to lead the way in doing so. 

For many years there have been studies done on how to address racial disparities in the Dane County criminal system and Madison policing that are relevant, but we haven’t seen the concrete action required to make the changes that our communities need. 

Please have your plan completed by the end of February 2015. 

Racial disparities have plagued Madison and Dane County for many years. It is well beyond the time that concrete and intentional efforts are made. We look forward to celebrating with you the decrease in racial disparities at the end of 2015. 

All Power to the People, Young Gifted and Black Coalition 

Museum working to preserve plywood art in Ferguson

The Missouri History Museum and the Regional Art Commission are working to preserve art that has been added to plywood meant to protect storefronts or cover damage from protesting in Ferguson and St. Louis.

The wood has been enhanced with drawings, bright colors and positive sayings, such as “listen with love” and “heal the world,” since a grand jury last month declined to indict white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old.

Hundreds of artists have banded together to highlight the community’s strength and provide a positive outlet that will allow people to move past the images of businesses being looted and burned, said Tom Halaska, owner of the Art Bar on Cherokee Street and an organizer with Paint for Peace STL. The effort has received tremendous support from business owners and residents, he said.

About 100 board-covered businesses have been decorated, and participants plan to continue their artistic mission, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The museum hopes to eventually collect some of the art for research or possibly for an exhibit, according to Chris Gordon, director of library and collections.

But not everyone supports the preservation effort, and opposition has been felt by business owners and protesters alike.

“It’s not the history you’d want to remember,” said Varun Madaksira, owner of the Original Red’s BBQ in Ferguson, which was set on fire after the grand jury announcement.

Tony Rice of Ferguson has been protesting since Brown was killed on Aug. 9. He believes the plywood art masks residents’ sadness.

“It’s an attempt to whitewash the pain the community has suffered,” Rice said.

Supporters of the effort say art can help turn a negative situation into a positive one. Boarded-up buildings can lead people to believe an area is unsafe, said Rachel Witt, executive director of the South Grand Community Improvement District.

“When you put paint on, it really changes the perspective,” she said.

New coalition forms to push for end to capital punishment

With the country’s final executions of 2014 are scheduled to take place in Georgia, Missouri and Texas this week, a new coalition has launched a campaign to push for an end to capital punishment.

The goal — to mobilize the 90 million Americans who support ending capital punishment — was announced early on Dec. 9 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The coalition includes civil rights, religious, human rights and libertarian organizations and the movement is called the “90 Million Strong Campaign.”

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is coordinating the effort. An announcement said the coalition is responding “to a shockingly high number of death row exonerations, botched executions and an increase in government secrecy surrounding the practice.”

The campaign also “comes at a time when the nation is still grappling with significant questions about fairness, particularly when it comes to race, in the criminal justice system.”

In the last decade, six states have abolished capital punishment. Thirty-one states plus the District of Columbia either don’t have the death penalty or have not carried out executions in at least five years.

Since 1973, including last month’s freeing of the longest-serving innocent prisoner, 149 people have been exonerated from Death Row.

Peace and justice coalition renews call for police accountability, oversight

Don’t Shoot, a coalition of about 50 groups in the St. Louis area that formed in the wake of the police shooting of Michael Brown, renewed its call for police accountability and oversight following the grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

“We will redouble our efforts to secure justice for Michael Brown and demand police and criminal justice system reforms across the board,” said Michael T. McPhearson, co-chair of the Don’t Shoot Coalition and executive director for Veterans For Peace. “We learned a long time ago that police are not held accountable for killing people and especially not black and brown people. Instead, law enforcement and the judicial system have been used most aggressively and unfairly against us.”

The coalition on Nov. 25 issued a series of demands:

• A thorough federal investigation of possible criminal violations by Wilson.

• Amnesty for all those engaging in protest activity including dismissal of all state, county and municipal charges against individuals participating in civil disobedience since the Aug. 9 shooting.

• Police practices and criminal justice reforms that address systemic and prolific racial bias in policing.

Justice for Michael Brown remains a critical concern for Don’t Shoot, the group said in its statement. Now that the grand jury has declined to file any changes against Wilson, Don’t Shoot looks to the federal government to continue its investigations into the shooting and into the Ferguson Police Department. Don’t Shoot urged the Justice Department to “expend every possible resource to realize a fair and just outcome.”

“Don’t Shoot also seeks amnesty for the protestors arrested as a result of engaging in civil disobedience,” said Montague Simmons of the Organization for Black Struggle. “We ask all involved government agencies to drop these charges. How can you prosecute people for taking action to change a guilty system?”

Don’t Shoot’s vision for police practices is based on the concept that the role of police is to defend the safety and constitutional rights of the citizens they serve, and in which the first priority is preservation of life.

“Policing priorities should reflect community priorities. We need to shift the fundamental power dynamic between the broader community and those it assigns to protect them and keep the peace.” said Don’t Shoot member John Chasnoff.  Don’t Shoot also wants to see police agencies engage the best and most progressive practices and meet the highest standards for professionalism in the field.

To achieve this vision, Don’t Shoot has developed an agenda of reforms needed at the municipal, county, state and federal levels. Its immediate priorities for reform include:

• Establishment of an independent countywide citizen review board in St. Louis County to hear complaints of police misconduct, make policy recommendations and report on the activities of departments. For such an entity to be effective, it must be independently commissioned and empowered with adequate funding, subpoena power and access to internal affairs files.

• Strengthening Missouri’s racial profiling measure to include repercussions for departments that have demonstrated patterns of racial profiling or failed to comply with the law.

• Expanding Missouri’s training requirements for officers to include mandatory in-service training on topics such as interacting with people with mental illnesses, use of force, responding to sexual assault, unarmed combat, conflict resolution, anti-racism and other critical issues.

• Revision of Missouri law to allow individuals with prior felony convictions to serve on juries.

“We will not allow the grand jury’s decision to set us back,” said Denise Lieberman, Don’t Shoot co-chair and senior attorney with Advancement Project, which on over the weekend filed a legal demand letter on behalf of coalition partners promising to protect the constitutional rights of demonstrators in the wake of the decision. “We view this as a beginning, not an end. We look forward to working with people from all concerned communities to bring a new era of change and end the fear and suffering of communities targeted and harassed by police.”

On the Web…

http://www.dontshootstl.org