La Crosse’s mayor and a City Council member are weighing in after the La Crosse police chief expressed his frustration with the county court system.
Police Chief Ronald Tischer said criminals are getting off too easy and are ending up back on the our streets and breaking the law again, often within 24 hours of being released. Tischer said it seems like a revolving door for criminals in the area and he is worried it’s becoming a public safety issue.
Mayor Tim Kabat of La Crosse said this issue needs to be addressed, but it is not a new problem.
“I would like to applaud the Police Department and the chief for raising the issue again,” said Kabat.
In September of 2013, the Police Department brought the issue before the City Council.
“The Police Department has the statistics that show the vast majority of their arrests, of their calls and problems they deal with are committed by a relatively small number of people,” said Kabat.
Kabat said the major concern comes with the lack of accountability and the reputation that comes along with it.
“If you have folks that are committing multiple offenses and that is their way of life, they need to be held accountable. Our justice system should be set up to deal with those pretty dramatically,” said Kabat. “The idea that we could be getting a reputation where it is a slap on the wrist or the punishments aren’t as great, that worries me.”
However, there may not be an easy fix to such a long-term problem.
“I know the district attorney is doing the best he can do, our judges have limitations on what they can do, but this is very much a societal problem,” said Doug Happel, a member of the La Crosse City Council.
Happel said it is starting to have an impact on the community.
“You can’t incarcerate everyone, but if that person is not on the streets, they are not a danger to you or I. If they are back on the streets, they are a danger to you or I,” said Happel.
Happel and Kabat both agree, something needs to change.
“There are no magic solutions to this,” said Happel.
“It is not something that has just popped up and it is not going to be fixed. We need to continue this effort to keep talking about it, to keep highlighting when there are problems and working together to fix it,” said Kabat.
News 8 did reach out to the La Crosse County judges on Wednesday. Judge Scott Horne said he can’t comment ethically on anything that could potentially be tied to current cases. However, he said he would be open to having a public forum where the community, police department and others can have a conversation about the issue.