La Crosse residents invited to open conversation about policing at upcoming virtual town hall

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)– An upcoming town hall will be the first of many conversations about systemic racism and inequities in La Crosse. Area leaders and activists will hold a public forum about policing on Wednesday, Aug. 19. The hope is to have an honest conversation about the police and how to build better relations with residents.

The virtual town hall is in direct response to calls for change during the George Floyd Protests. Mayor Tim Kabat said during a press conference Thursday he has heard from residents of color that they don’t have ways to share their stories and concerns comfortably with city leaders.

“This virtual town hall is an effort to start creating these spaces,” said Kabat.

The panelists come from a variety city commissions and departments along with area activist organizations. This includes Chauncy Turner (Human Rights Commission), Chief Shawn Kudron (La Crosse Police Department), Chief Allen Hill (UW-La Crosse Police Department), Jazzma Holland (Black Leaders Acquiring Collective Knowledge or B.L.A.C.K.), Ebony Hyter (B.L.A.C.K.), Isaac Hoffman (La Crosse Area Family Collaborative), Bridget Todd-Robbins (Systems of Care), and Pelli Lee (Cia Siab, Inc.).

“We want to make sure that we are getting the voices heard in the La Crosse community [from] people of color,” said Lindsey Ford, the panel’s moderator.

They’ll answer questions about their top concerns like racial bias in policing and how it impacts interactions with minorities.

“Here in the community and all over the country they’re really starting to fear for their lives when they run into police officers for whatever reason,” said Chauncy Turner.

And other panelists hope to talk about general barriers between law enforcement and the people they serve.

“Our police departments do not have very good relationships with us especially in the black community,” said Keonte Turner.

This is also a chance for top law enforcement to respond with steps they’re taking to address these issues. Police Chief Shawn Kudron said one of the first goals is to have everyone feel like they will not be treated differently because of their skin color.

“To get to that point there will be a lot of work to do. And I think it starts with forums like the one that we’re going to be having,” said Kudron.

The event is not just to spark a conversation, but to create action and lasting change.

“So I’m hoping that everyone in the community truly takes this in, submits questions and gets involved,” said Shaundel Spivey, president of B.L.A.C.K.

The meeting on Aug. 19 will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. It will be accessible for viewing and online chat participation by visiting:

1. https://stream.lifesizecloud.com/extension/4955502/9e08118a-f70b-4021-8fd6-dd6b532a2ca5

2. City of La Crosse Police Department’s Facebook live video

All members of the public are encouraged to provide their input in the chat on either Facebook or Lifesize platforms.