Marquette Law School Poll Results, Geology App, Police Outreach To Latino Community

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Pollster Charles Franklin joins us to discuss the latest Marquette Law School poll, which was released today. A UW researcher tells us about his new app that will help outdoor enthusiasts identify rocks that they see in nature. And we learn about a Wisconsin law enforcement officer who has built bridges with the Latino community in his area.

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  • Police Sergeant's Story Has Lessons For Improved Police-Community Relations

    As police around the country grapple with new models for building trust between their departments and the communities they police, we talk with a Wisconsin police sergeant from Darlington whose past work building a positive relationship with the town’s growing Latino population is being seen as a model for community-building.

  • Darlington Police Sergeant Discusses Community Trust

    Building trust between law enforcement and communities has been in the news for months in the wake of several shootings of African-American men by police officers, including the death of Sylville Smith in August in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood, who law enforcement officials have said was carrying a gun.

    Now, some police departments in Wisconsin are looking to the southwest corner of the state for answers.

    Sgt. Tony Ruesga Jr. shared his experiences of building trust within the Darlington community recently at a 21st Century Policing conference at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Ruesga is a 16-year veteran of the Darlington Police Department who received an award in 2010 for his work in the community with a growing Hispanic population.

    About 15 years ago, Mexican Cheese Producers moved its national headquarters to Darlington, a town of about 2,500 people in southwestern Wisconsin. The new company attracted a lot of Latino residents to the area.

    “We were seeing conflicts between the cultures, and that is (kind of) what drove me to step in and hope to help curb some of those conflicts and bridge some of those gaps,” Ruesga said.

    The sergeant grew up in an immigrant family in Texas. His dad is a Mexican national who came to the country illegally.

    “I got to see firsthand the system at play and what that did to families,” Ruesga said.

    One of the things Ruesga did to help build stronger relationships between Latino residents and the rest of the community was start a basketball team. He said it was a way to get new residents involved in the community as well as allowing them to get to know other community members.

    “What I started to see was more of the caucasians become friends … with Hispanics and with whatever other ethnicities started joining us,” Ruesga said, noting it slowly but surely started to solve some of the tensions.

    Ruesga did other things to help build trust with the Latino community. He instituted an open-door policy, he helped Spanish-speakers schedule oil changes, he allowed the officers he supervised to attend and organize community events during their shifts and he helped organize a seminar with an attorney for illegal immigrants who wanted to get legal status.

    The sergeant said there is no magic, one-size-fits-all recipe to having a good relationship with the community. Trust is a journey that has no end, he said. One day he’s helping someone in the community, and the next day he has to arrest a family member, eliminating that trust he’s built with that person.

    “The key is being fair, being consistent, keeping your ducks in a row, and being honest with people, even though that honesty may not be what they wanted to hear,” Ruesga said.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Host
  • Haleema Shah Producer
  • Rob Ferrett Producer
  • Veronica Rueckert Producer
  • Charles Franklin Guest
  • Shanan Peters Guest
  • John Czaplewski Guest
  • Tony Ruesga Guest

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