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Racine Mayor Mason Proposes Police & Fire Commission Reforms

Oct. 14, 2020 10:40p

(WGTD)---If Racine Mayor Cory Mason has his way, the city's Police and Fire Commission will be able to hire its own investigators to look into complaints filed against the city's police department.

Funding for such a move was included in the mayor's budget proposal to the City Council Wednesday night. While it was just one of many points and proposals made in the address, the suggestion that the Commission, when judging the validity of citizen complaints, no longer rely solely on investigative reports produced by police would represent a dramatic shift if adopted. Mason said Wednesday night he's already moved the administration of the Police and Fire Commission out of the police department and into the city's human resources office in a bid to have it operate more independently. 

Recommendations involving the Commission were among several that were motivated by the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha. Other communities are also looking at ways to better handle police complaints. A full report on possible police reforms in Racine is expected to be released next month. 

In his address Wednesday evening, Mason expressed his strong support for work that the police department does. A mental health specialist that the city brought in under contract to deal with the needs of officers would become a permanent expenditure in Mason's budget. 

In addressing other equity issues, Mason proposed moving a lower-income health center that's scheduled to open next year in the basement of Julian Thomas Elementary to a new, stand-alone structure to be built about a block north. Funding for planning such a move is also included in the budget.

Although the budget includes no layoffs of city employees, 24 positions would be eliminated through attrition. 

Mason once again urged the governor and legislature to loosen levy limits, which he said are suffocating cities. 

Also in the budget proposal...a slight reduction in the tax rate, and a debt reduction from $94 to $91 million.