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Our view: Data on criminal justice, race should be collected

Our view: Data on criminal justice, race should be collected

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With the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police and the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha police officer, race in policing has been at the forefront of national debate.

The videos that have been captured are horrific to watch and have forever changed the landscape of communities since the incidents.

Ideas have been proposed at the national, state and local level to address racial disparities. But one thing that is missing is solid facts about arrests, charges and sentencing.

That needs to change. That data needs to be collected and readily available, at the state and national level — and especially at the local level where it can really be addressed.

When President Donald Trump and his election opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, were in town earlier this month, each held roundtable discussions on the issues affecting the Kenosha community and the nation as a whole.

It was Angela Cunningham, owner of ADC Law Office in Kenosha, who brought up the need for accurate data collection when she spoke at the Biden roundtable.

She said that because she sits in court all day and listen to cases, “I’m able to see the differential treatment in charging and offers that are given by the prosecution and in sentencing given by judges. “Anyone who is not in court every day will not see it and that data is not readily available.”

“I would love to see a nationwide effort put in place that requires police departments, district attorney’s offices and also courts to collect the data about arrests, about charges, about sentencing, about offers that are given so that the light can be shown for people who don’t sit in court all day to see that we not just talking, there really is a discrepancy.”

She went to say, “Once we know what the actual numbers are, start putting legislation in place to address the discrepancies.”

She is right. There is not enough data. It needs to be collected and reported so that the community as a whole, and especially elected officials, can see directly what is happening.

If there is a judge, prosecutor or officer discriminating and treating any group unfairly, then it should be examined so it can be understood and fixed.

Working in the court system, Cunningham is able to directly see how the criminal justice system works. Everyone else in the community should be able to access that same data.

Collecting data doesn’t need to be a partisan issue. It’s a small step that can have real impact.


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Four years ago, upon the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said — early in a presidential election year, with party primaries, including Wisconsin’s, yet to take place — that “the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.”

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