When La Crosse Police Chief Ron Tischer voiced his opinion about a court system he thought was too lenient, his comments drew reaction from judges, the D.A. and the public. But in the weeks since his admission, has there been any change?
There is no doubt that when a police chief publicly criticizes the courts, it's going to create some tension, but Chief Tischer says his point wasn't to attack judges, it was to start a public conversation to create change, and he is optimistic things are moving in that right direction.
Chief Tischer says the first public meeting between the courts and the police department since he went public with this concerns was an important first step. "Although not all of our initial concerns were addressed," says Tischer, "I think some things that we talked about are certainly putting us on the right track to making those changes."
It's a track the Chief has been pushing for privately for months before finally deciding to go public. He knew his decision would draw criticism, but he felt it was important. "I think it was a point of where now maybe is the best time," says Tischer, "maybe it's not the best time, maybe there is never a good time to say it but we thought we need to say something to get this ball rolling so we could all get talking." Tischer and at least one local judge say this is not about a feud, it's about working to curb a growing drug problem.
So how do we do that? How do we go from talking about it to making it happen? Chief Tischer says a good first step would be the courts drawing a clearer line between the addicts who are buying drugs and the hardened criminals that are making it far too easy to buy. "The hardened drug deal criminals, those people aren't addicted," says Tischer, "they're not drug users, so those are the ones we need to deal with more severely."
Chief Tischer says he did speak briefly with a few judges before Wednesday night's Criminal Justice Management Council meeting, so not everything is being handled in public, through the press, there are private conversations as well.