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La Crosse police chief, sheriff say fabric of police advisory study group critical to success

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La Crosse police chief, sheriff say fabric of police advisory study group critical to success

Demonstrators raise their illuminated cell phones at City Hall during during a nine-minute period of silence in 2020 to honor George Floyd, whose death sparked La Crosse County officials to consider a new police advisory group. Police leaders have said they support the move, but are cautious about the members chosen to be on the board. "Having anti-police individuals trying to manipulate law enforcement, it's not going to do any good," Sheriff Jeff Wolf said.

Police officials voiced support for the creation of a new study committee that will evaluate the feasibility of a possible police advisory board, but emphasized that the people who serve on the body will be critical to its success.

La Crosse County Sheriff Jeff Wolf and La Crosse Chief of Police Shawn Kudron both echoed those sentiments to the county Judiciary & Law Committee on Tuesday afternoon, as members approved the creation of the study group.

This new body is the second to research what a police advisory board would look like, and it has taken several months to get it to the table after behind-the-scenes discussions between stakeholders.

The final product that would be created out of this began as an oversight board on policing, but during these discussions much of the direct disciplinary power has already been stripped of the would-be body, and it has been transformed into only an advisory board.

La Crosse County Sheriff Jeff Wolf

Both police leaders said Tuesday that they’re in support of improving the way they interact with the community.

“I’m not opposed to the concept of looking at this study committee,” Wolf said. “We understand our role in the community, and we work to bridge gaps and improve our relationships and help those that need help.”

“It’s been important to us to understand and be able to take in comments as well as critiques in terms of how we can become better as law enforcement and policing services in our community,” Kudron said.

Shawn Kudron

Shawn Kudron, La Crosse Police Chief

But both officials said that the piece they were worried about was the individuals who would be chosen to serve in the group, saying that La Crosse County Board chair Monica Kruse had a “very important job” to put “careful thought” into who she selected to serve on it.

“I do have some reservations about personal agendas,” Wolf said. “We’ve seen it previously on the subcommittee that individuals have, and it’s important that this committee identifies what the purpose is in the scope of their duties to make law enforcement better, make the leaders in our county better, build relationships and so forth.”

Wolf said, “But if it’s the goal of any members that want to be on this committee to [vilify] law enforcement or criticize law enforcement rather than make improvements, we’re not going to get anywhere.”

“Having anti-police individuals trying to manipulate law enforcement, it’s not going to do any good and it’s going to be very toxic to the whole process,” Wolf said. “It’s very important that [Kruse] is diligent in the selection and, if things are done right, like we’re told that they will be, then I think that this could be a very positive thing.”

Monica Kruse

La Crosse County Board chair Monica Kruse

Kudron echoed this reservation, saying it will be a “great responsibility” to choose the members of the committee to “bring together people who can critically look at these concepts and have the ultimate goal of making all of our agencies better for the communities that we serve.”

The resolution creating the study group states that its members will be made up of “stakeholders including law enforcement; policy and decision makers for agencies and municipalities; and community stakeholders including victim advocates, representatives of disproportionately impacted communities, subject matter experts, criminal legal system researchers, representatives with legal, civil rights or law enforcement expertise.”

This was the first time the J&L Committee took a vote on the study group, after it bypassed the group on its way to the La Crosse County Board the first time.

It will go before the County Board next Monday, and if discussions went the way that officials had hoped during the referral of the item, it should receive unanimous support.

If it is approved, Kruse then has the authority to pick the members of the study committee, appointments that would then need County Board approval.


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