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civil unrest; unrest; police; kenosha
On Monday, the Kenosha Common Council approved approximately $1,166 to be disbursed to four police officers whose vehicles were damaged in a city parking garage near the Kenosha Public Safety Building at the end of August. File photo by Daniel Thompson/The Uptown Observer.

KENOSHA ⏤ The city of Kenosha Monday authorized approximately $1,166 to reimburse police officers for damages received to their personal vehicles during “civil unrest.”

However, one alderman was upset by both the method the measure came before the council and the personal information contained in the resolution. 

Backdrop of resolution

The resolution uses the same terminology of “civil unrest” local officials have used to describe the riots that took place over a period of several nights in Kenosha at the end of August.

The unrest, which first began after the killing of George Floyd, exploded in Kenosha on Aug. 23. On that day, Kenosha Police Department officer Rusten Sheskey shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back. 

The shooting left Blake paralyzed from the waist down.

Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley has yet to make a decision whether Sheskey will be charged with a crime. 

Wording of resolution

The wording of the resolution, principally sponsored by Ald. Rocco LaMacchia, softens the Jacob Blake situation in its opening line. In fact, it doesn’t mention that he was shot at all.

“WHEREAS, the incidents surrounding Jacob Blake’s arrest on August 23, 2020 led to city wide civil unrest, which involved riotous activity, including burning building premises, burning of personal property, burning of government property, vandalism, and other damage-producing activity,” the text of the resolution begins.

It further explains the four officers had parked their vehicles in a city parking garage near the Kenosha Public Safety Building at the end of August following Blake’s shooting. There, each vehicle sustained the damage the city voted to reimburse Monday.

The highest cost to the city in reimbursing the damage was $580 to one of the officers.

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Kennedy takes issue with method

Dist. 10 Ald. Anthony Kennedy, who cast the sole dissenting vote Monday, made his disfavor with the process used to address the issue known.

He questioned why the city had not used its own established claims process to address the damages.

“When these vehicles were damaged, there was different ways to handle those claims that they could independently file against the city,” City Administrator John Morrissey explained. “After discussion, it was determined that, since they were officers that were on duty at the time, this was the best way for the council to approve the funds that were not covered by insurance. So this just appeared to be the best mechanism to ensure the officers were made whole.”

However, Kennedy pressed further, asking whether or not that is why the city’s claims process is already in place. 

“I understand that we’ve never had a civil disturbance and I know that’s going to be the flippant remark I get from some of my colleagues, but my question is, when have we bypassed the claims structure to make someone whole with damages or things that they’ve had?” Kennedy asked.

“I don’t know that we have,” Morrissey responded. “Again, this was because they were officers that were on duty at the time, city employees.”

Issues with resolution information disclosure

Kennedy also took issue with the officers’ personal information in the resolution.

“First and foremost, I have a problem with the personal information that’s put in this resolution,” he said. “Given the environment that our law enforcement have to deal in, I don’t think that’s responsible.”

In fact, the resolution contains the year, make and model of each of the officers’ vehicles. (Note: This is also the reason the Observer is not posting a copy of the resolution here.)

“My second concern is, if we have mechanisms in place that would afford the same result, I’m not quite sure why we’re walking down this path. While I understand the words that came out of the mouth of the city administrator, I feel very uneasy about this. And I definitely feel uneasy about the amount of personal information that’s put into this document.”

Kennedy ended his questioning with a hope that it does not become commonplace practice in the city.

“I know, again, someone will say, ‘Well, if it’s a claim, (personal information is in),’” Kennedy said. “But all of these claims can be approved at a certain level without having this level of disclosure. 

“I’m very concerned about this, and I hope this doesn’t become precedent.”

Rating: 1 out of 5.

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Daniel Thompson is an independent journalist and the founder of The Uptown Observer based in the Kenosha, Wis., area. He started in journalism at the Western Nebraska Observer in 2012 and, most notably,...