Officials react to decision to not charge officer in Blake shooting

State and local officials offered their thoughts on Tuesday, Jan. 5 regarding the decision to not charge Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey in connection with the shooting of Jacob Blake.

Their statements are listed below.

Gov. Tony Evers

"Over the past year, our state and country have witnessed a movement—one that echoes hundreds of years of movements that have come before it, demanding justice, equity, and peace for Black lives. What is just as clear today as it has been is we have failed to deliver on these promises, both as a state and as a country. 

"Jacob Blake’s life has forever been changed and his kids witnessed violence no kid should ever see, experienced trauma no kid should ever endure, all while the world watched. And yet, when presented the opportunity to rise to this moment and this movement and take action to provide meaningful, commonsense reform to enhance accountability and promote transparency in policing in our state, elected officials took no action.  

"Today’s decision is further evidence that our work is not done—we must work each day in earnest toward a more just, more fair, and more equitable state and country, and to combat the racism experienced by Black Wisconsinites. I hope for peace and justice for Jacob, his family, and the entire Kenosha community. I reaffirm my commitment to action to build a more just, more equitable state for every Wisconsinite. And I ask those who will exercise their right to assemble tonight and in the days ahead to please do so peacefully and safely."

Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian and Police Chief Daniel Miskinis

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul

"Irrespective of the decision announced today, this case is a tragedy. An incident that unfolded in just a few minutes will have a lifelong impact on Mr. Blake, as well as others.

"The past several months have been extraordinarily challenging for the Kenosha community. We need to work together, peacefully, to ensure that Kenosha—and all of Wisconsin—comes out of this difficult time stronger.

"There is a pressing need for reform of our criminal justice system. Across the state, there are dedicated public servants in law enforcement whose work makes their communities safer. But the system we have in place—which, unlike the criminal justice systems in many others states, has not been significantly reformed in recent years—has produced staggering and unacceptable racial disparities.

"This past June, I called for several actions: increasing community-oriented policing; expanding de-escalation, implicit bias, cultural competency, and critical incident training; broadening Wisconsin DOJ’s limited authority to enforce civil rights laws; enacting bail reform; funding a hate-crime hotline; and prohibiting an officer’s disciplinary records from being sealed when the officer applies for employment at another law enforcement agency.

"In addition, Wisconsin should adopt a statewide use-of-force standard providing that officers’ primary duty is to preserve life and that officers must use de-escalation techniques to avoid force whenever possible. And law enforcement officers conducting patrol activities should have body-worn cameras. While many agencies in Wisconsin use such recording devices, that practice is still far from uniform—in significant part because of cost. Funding from the legislature to defray these costs would lead to more widespread use of this technology.

"Reforms should also include improving our emergency detention system and strengthening enforcement and supporting victim services in certain areas in which there has long been under-enforcement, such as white-collar crime and violent crimes that are disproportionately committed against women, including domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.

"We need policy changes that will reduce the likelihood that officer-involved critical incidents will occur and that will make our criminal justice system fairer and more equitable."

Chris Ott, Executive Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin

"We are disappointed that, instead of holding police accountable for another example of their repeated use of excessive force against people of color, District Attorney Graveley declined to charge Officer Rusten Sheskey in the shooting of Jacob Blake. This continues the cycle of enabling police violence and evading accountability when they seriously injure and harm a Black person. Based on the video footage of the incident, it remains hard to see any reason to shoot Mr. Blake in the back repeatedly. But, as we’ve seen so many times before, the police in this case were held to a different standard of responsibility than the rest of us. Kenosha has given another terrible example in a national pattern of police using excessive force against people of color during routine encounters, escalating situations instead of defusing them and then being given a pass. This officer will continue with his career with the mistaken belief that he has done no wrong, while Jacob Blake will remain paralyzed and left to deal with the consequences of this officer’s actions. Today, justice was not served."

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley

"My heart goes out to the family of Jacob Blake, his children who were in the backseat when he was shot by police, and to Jacob himself as he continues on his road to recovery. They did not receive justice today.

"In the aftermath of the shooting I said that Blake’s wounds were the result of systemic racism, the policies and practices that entangle our institutions and produce racially disparate outcomes, regardless of the intentions of the people who work within them. Today’s announcement highlights just how pervasive these systemic problems are and the threat they pose to the lives of Black and Brown residents.

"The likelihood of an everyday citizen not facing charges after shooting someone in the back on video is slim to none. That shouldn’t change for the police. When the police are above the law that means it is time to look at changing the law to make sure officers are held accountable.

"Today’s decision not only failed to deliver justice to Jacob and his family, but it failed to listen to the people in communities across the state and nation who demanded systemic change in policing in the wake of Blake’s shooting.

"I urge everyone exercising their right to assemble in the days ahead to do so peacefully and safely. And, I urge leaders at every level of government to listen to their voices and work together to answer the demand for systemic change in policing and transparency at all levels. "

Congressman Bryan Steil (R)

"The Wisconsin Department of Justice and the Kenosha County District Attorney have made their determination after a lengthy process. This has been a difficult period for Kenosha, but, when the riots ended, constructive dialogue began and must continue. We also need to continue supporting what is working and fixing what is wrong. I support everyone's First Amendment rights to lawfully express their views on the decision, whether you agree with it or not. However, any form of criminal activity in Kenosha must not be tolerated."

Democratic Party of Wisconsin chair Ben Wikler

"The safety of every Wisconsinite, regardless of race, must be at the center of our laws, and violation of that safety must lead to accountability. This is not justice. Not for Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times in the back and paralyzed by Kenosha police. Not for his children, who will be forever traumatized by the violence they witnessed that day. And not for the Black community in Wisconsin, which has seen their lives systemically devalued at the hands of police for years without accountability. Today’s decision is yet another gut punch to those who have been organizing and protesting in defense of Black lives.

"Our justice system falls excruciatingly short of its promise of equal protection under the law for all Americans, and our laws fall miles short of adding up to a system of justice. Wisconsin, with some of the worst racial disparities in the nation, has incurred a particular debt to the Black community that continues to grow. If our laws do not prevent or address injustice, it is time to change them. We must fight for a just, equitable, and anti-racist Wisconsin. Black lives matter."

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Jim Palmer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association

"This case effectively highlights the danger that exists when people render judgment without the benefit of the facts." (via Twitter)

State Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh)

"Last summer, Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, was shot seven times in the back by police officers. Today, the Kenosha County district attorney announced that no criminal charges will be brought against the law enforcement officers involved in Mr. Blake’s shooting."

"I again express my heartfelt sympathy for Mr. Blake, whose life was unexpectedly but permanently changed last summer. Tonight and in the coming days and weeks, I will keep Mr. Blake in my mind as well as the Wisconsinites for whom Mr. Blake’s shooting feels all too familiar. We should all listen carefully to the Wisconsinites who expressed their devastation, outrage, and heartache about systemic racism in Wisconsin and who demand change."

"Black Lives Matter. As elected leaders, we work to ensure all Wisconsinites can go about daily life without fearing for their lives, no matter the color of their skin. Today’s decision reminds us that we must continue grounding ourselves in the fight to address the forces disproportionately impacting Black lives."

State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) & Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem Lakes)

"Charging decisions are never easy and cannot be snap judgments. They must follow the process, and complete a review of all of the evidence about an entire situation, not a seven second video. In this case, we appreciate that the evidence was thoroughly reviewed by two outside entities without conflicts, and that the entirety of the evidence was considered before making this important decision.

"Having not reviewed the entirety of the evidence, we are unable to pass judgment on whether or not the charging decision was the right one. We hope that others will do the same.

"People have a right to peacefully protest the decision; we hope that’s what occurs. Kenosha cannot have a repeat of the August riots.

"We have been in contact with area officials and the Governor’s office, and are hopeful that the resources are in place in overwhelming numbers to ensure the community and businesses are protected while allowing for individuals to practice their free speech rights."

State Sen. Melissa Agard (D-Madison)

"The anger and demand for reformative change demonstrated at the protests throughout 2020 was borne out of the continual inability to bring justice for black lives. No one should have to worry that calling a police officer will bring them harm, let alone cost them their life. We cannot continue the inaction - folks must be held accountable. What happened in Kenosha is a tragedy and an example of a broken system that desperately needs comprehensive reform. 

"Our nation was founded on the principles of freedom and justice for all, however, our justice system lets down our communities of color and promotes violence against black and brown people. Wisconsin is the worst state for racial disparities and this is the result of the inability of our GOP lead legislature to address those disparities. Black Wisconsinites continually have barriers to accessing our criminal justice system, electoral process, education system, and many other aspects of our society.

"We have to do better."

Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson

"We all saw the video of the officer shooting Jacob Blake in the back and side seven times, and any reasonable person can see that Mr. Blake was not a threat to the officer, who could have used other means to gain compliance and arrest him, and allow the justice system to work.

"I was saddened and angry to learn of the Kenosha County District Attorney’s decision not to issue criminal charges against Rusten Sheskey, the officer who shot Jacob Blake.

"This decision demonstrates once again that we have different standards of justice for law enforcement officers and for Black civilians who are victims of police violence, and we have a long way to go to dismantle institutionalized racism in Wisconsin."

"With this decision, once again we are witnessing law enforcement focus on alleged behavior of a victim of police violence and attempt to convict him in the media, rather than accountability for the law enforcement officer who used excessive and unnecessary force."

Khary Penebaker, a volunteer with the Wisconsin chapter of Moms Demand Action and member of the Everytown Survivor Network

"No charge could change the fact that Jacob Blake is paralyzed from the waist down or heal the trauma that he and his family have suffered, but they deserve accountability. We stand with the Kenosha community, demanding justice and changes to a system in which Black people are wounded and killed by those who are supposed to be protecting them. As a new legislative session begins, leaders in the Wisconsin legislature must answer the calls to adopt common-sense police accountability and public safety laws that ensure all Wisconsinites are served." 


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