Monday in Whitewater will see afternoon thundershowers with a high of 87. Sunrise is 5:15 AM and sunset 8:34 PM for 15h 18m 47s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 98.5% of its visible disk illuminated.
Whitewater’s Planning Commission meets at 6 PM.
On this day in 1777, Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette lands near Charleston, South Carolina, in order to help the Continental Congress to train its army.
This morning, the Wisconsin Examiner has a story entitled Complaints mount over conduct of Whitewater PD (‘Reports of racial profiling and excessive force under suspended chief’). Isiah Holmes’s story has three main topics: (1) the experiences of D’Angelo Lux, a former UW-Whitewater student who has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the department and some of its officers, (2) the department’s record on managing complaints generally, and (3) Chief Aaron Raap’s career record in Milwaukee before he became Whitewater’s chief. (The story includes an embedded copy of Raap’s complaint case file while he was an employee of the Milwaukee Police Department.)
Update, Monday afternoon: I’ve received emails asking what I think of the details in the Examiner story. A quick reply, before a more detailed one tomorrow: it’s not typical for a town to go this long with a police chief on leave. Litigation is important both to a litigant, defendants, and the community, but there’s more than that at issue here. (That’s why, after all, I wrote the paragraph immediately following this one.) Whitewater’s local government has a closed and broken process in more places than one. The excerpts from the story were chosen with care, along with a recommendation to read the whole story.
While the story is about policing, it also implicates subjects of local government’s transparency and competency, and the lack of serious news reporting on myriad topics in Whitewater. Readers would do best to read the story in full; excerpts appear immediately below:
Since December, the department’s police chief Aaron Raap, has been on administrative leave pending an ongoing internal investigation. Raap, who was hired as chief in 2018, was taken into custody following an alleged Thanksgiving fight with a family member. Though the Waukesha County District Attorney’s Office declined to issue charges, other controversies have also emerged during Raap’s time in Whitewater.
No one on the city’s common council offered comment either, even after a council meeting was held regarding Raap’s continued employment by the city on May 3. Deputy Chief of Police Daniel Meyer, who has served as acting chief since Raap was placed on paid administrative leave, said no action was taken by the council that day. Meyer also provided data and reports on citizen complaints against officers since 2018, when Raap arrived at the department.
“Since Chief Raap has been employed by the WPD,” Meyer emailed Wisconsin Examiner, “two officers have been disciplined pursuant to internal investigations regarding use of force, however, neither investigation was complaint-driven.” A complaint of excessive force against a WPD officer was made on Feb. 5, 2022. There were 10 complaints in 2019. The number dropped to just three in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic set in. The following year in 2021, however, the number rose to 8 complaints against WPD personnel.
Every complaint filed in 2018 was classified as “exonerated,” meaning an investigation confirmed that an incident occurred but that it was justified. The 10 complaints the following year followed a similar pattern, from accusations of unreasonable searches with dogs to reports of excessive force and harassment.
In 2021 the trend continued. A complaint by a driver that an officer allowed another car to leave the scene of a hit and run was ultimately sustained by the department, and the driver who was at fault was later cited. Another complaint came from a person who reported having “almost died in custody, was transported with no seat belt, had an asthma attack, was fearful for their life, and that an officer had a vendetta against them,” police records state. The investigation found the complaint was without merit and unfounded. Other complaints involved officers who rang a citizen’s doorbell multiple times and refused to leave when asked. There were also reports of officers not fully investigating incidents, including one of an officer allegedly not taking a child’s complaint of abuse seriously enough. Unwarranted traffic stops also made a reappearance. Even during the 2020 slowdown, reports of race-based harassment continued.
Decades ago, Raap served as a police officer for the city of Milwaukee, where he was hired in 1990 and left the department at the rank of captain. While serving in the Milwaukee Police Department, Raap accumulated a lengthy disciplinary record. According to Milwaukee PD records obtained through open records requests, 22 internal investigations involving Raap were initiated from August 1995-December 2003. The accusations included battery of citizens, refusing to give his name and badge number, improper searches and seizures, entering the homes of residents without just cause, and issues with the filing of reports. Some of the complaints involved incidents where several officers responded, including Raap. In these complaints, Raap defended the actions of fellow officers.
Just one of those complaints, related to the filing of reports, was sustained by internal affairs in 1996. The last 2003 complaint involving misconduct in public office is listed as “warrant refused.” In such cases, a criminal allegation is presented to the district attorney’s office but no charges are issued. These decisions were made under former Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann, who served as district attorney from 1969 to 2007 .
A complaint against Raap in the year 2000 related to battery accusations was also listed as “warrant refused”. Most of Raap’s complaints during his time in Milwaukee were listed as unfounded or baseless. Many of those decades-old complaints echo reports of misconduct by Whitewater officers under Raap’s leadership today. Raap’s future as head of WPD remains in limbo, and he continues to be on paid administrative leave. WPD did not provide details on the timeline for the investigation.
John Adams – I have read the article on WW Police. Nowhere do I see that Raap engaged in racism or abuse nor encouraged it. I understand this has to be investigated but as a mere observer, not knowing any more details than those published, it seems like the young football player disobeyed an officer when he was told to stop and talk to the officer. I may be missing something here, but if the boys were doing nothing wrong, why didn’t they stop and answer the officer’s questions? And until someone gives me more detail, that Milwaukee history of Raap – all found to be invalid complaints. Let’s move beyond this, Whitewater.
I think the issue, as much as any other, is a department that drifts without a leader in a city that won’t resolve this issue. There’s a second issue, and that’s that this city does not get ahead of news stories — people are in the dark, and then get surprised. If city government had been more explanatory, then parts of this story would not now be surprising to some residents. So, when there’s a lawsuit (filed years ago) it’s better for government to say so, that there has been a lawsuit and that the city is defending that suit (as it is). Now, this is all new to residents. The same is true with Aaron Raap’s personnel file — it would have been better to discuss his file before hiring a new chief. There would be no new news, so to speak.
Better to air everything at the first instance, however uncomfortable, than waiting years. When I saw the story at the Examiner, the better course in my mind was to link to it. It was bound to circulate, and it’s about this city’s local government. (There are parts of the story, that candidly, seem less compelling than other parts. I’ve no idea how the litigation will proceed. Most lawsuits are like this are dismissed, for example.)
Key problem: Whitewater still needs a permanent police chief. The city has said too little, and now is behind the curve yet again.
Two quick updates: (1) I should have started off with Good morning, Mary, so Good morning, Mary and (2) if the city had made some version of your remarks at the time of the lawsuit’s filing they would have been in a stronger position. Case counsel could have drafted a statement that supported the city’s position legally and publicly. Silence, so to speak, is often worse than nothing. A statement at the time would have been much more.
Thank you for reading and commenting, and my best wishes,