The Green Bay Police Department is in the process of hiring a new leader following the retirement of Chief Andrew Smith earlier this year.
The city is hosting a series of listening sessions to learn what the community wants in a new police chief. Remaining sessions are planned for Wednesday and Thursday. The city is also accepting input by phone, email or mail.
The Green Bay Police and Fire Commission has named four candidates to replace Smith:
- Capt. Benjamin Allen, captain of the Investigations Division of the Green Bay Police Department. He’s been with the department since 2000 and recently spearheaded the agency’s plan to acquire and implement body cameras.
- Christopher Davis, deputy chief for the police department in Portland, Oregon. He’s currently a member of the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training committee.
- Capt. David Salazar, a captain for the Milwaukee Police Department. He oversees an area on the city’s near south side that is home to almost 90,000 residents.
- Cmdr. Kevin Warych, commander of operations for the Green Bay Police Department. In addition to managing more than 100 employees, he’s led community initiatives including Bring Your Own Five basketball tournaments, Badges Giving Baskets and the Goods for Guns program.
Each of the four candidates have more than two decades of law enforcement experience.
Charles Caston remembers when he was younger and police officers used to pull over and hand out football and baseball cards. It’s important for police officers to meet the residents they serve, he said. The city needs a police chief who is willing to put himself in uncomfortable situations — like embracing communities that are different from his own, Caston said.
Caston is a crime victim advocate at We All Rise: African American Resource Center, which offers services for Green Bay’s Black and Native American communities ranging from counseling to food assistance. Sometimes, its clients just need a place to feel safe in a predominantly white community, he said.
He said he feels the slate of candidates should have been more diverse in terms of gender and ethnicity. Adding that having more Black officers in higher ranking positions would give the Black community a greater sense of comfort when being pulled over or reporting a crime as a victim
In the Wisconsin Professional Police Association’s 2021 Public Perception Survey, just over 20 percent of white respondents answered that police violence against Black people or African Americans in Wisconsin is an “extremely serious” problem. That’s compared to almost 50 percent of non-white respondents.
Until everyone is ready to acknowledge that racism still exists, “we’re basically marching in place,” Caston said.
“Police were created to capture slaves, so until we acknowledge that, accept that and start to put those people who are the most marginalized and the most afraid of officers into positions to feel comfortable … then we will constantly go through the same problems,” he said.
According to a news release from the city, a new police chief is likely to be chosen after in-person interviews take place later this month.
Smith led the agency for five years. James Runge, a longtime veteran of the Green Bay Police Department, came out of retirement to serve as interim chief.
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