State lawmakers introduce legislation to diversify hiring at local law enforcement agencies

Published: Sep. 2, 2020 at 4:30 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - State lawmakers introduce new legislation to help local law enforcement agencies hire more diverse candidates.

“No abandones su suenos. Creemos en ustedes. ’Don’t abandon your dreams. We believe in you,’” said Sister Melanie Maczka, executive director of Casa ALBA Melanie.

Maczka has said these words of encouragement to hundreds of young people like Jose Del Rio, Deferred Action for Children Arrivals (DACA) applicants she says are “studying hard, working hard, making a positive impact on the community.”

“I grew up as an American. I don’t know any other country than America, so I consider myself an American,” said Del Rio.

Wisconsin state law allows DACA immigrants the ability to serve on the Wisconsin State Patrol and join the military, but Del Rio’s citizenship status prevents him from achieving his dream of becoming an officer in the Green Bay Police Department.

“We are authorized 194 officers. Right now, we have 179, and part of that reason is because it’s so difficult to find those top-quality candidates: people that are willing to take the risks that police officer endure, people that are wiling to take the challenges of being a police officer, people that are willing to serve this community,” said Chief Andrew Smith, Green Bay Police Department. “And right now we’ve got one standing just to my left.”

New legislation introduced by Rep. John Macco (R-Ledgeview) and Rep. David Steffen (R-Green Bay) opens the door for local police departments and sheriff’s offices to hire Del Rio and thousands of other DACA applicants living in Wisconsin.

“This type of opportunity provides a great possibility for not only Green Bay but other law enforcement agencies to reflect and be responsive to the diversity within their community,” said Steffen.

“There are certain things that we can and cannot do as it relates to law enforcement. This is one piece that we can do,” said Macco. “This is one piece where we sat down, and we looked and said, ’How can we bring greater diversity into the workforce and the police department? And that was by making it easier for them to actually employ folks that are interested in being part of that solution.”

Sen. Andre Jacque (R-De Pere) says the legislation not only helps law enforcement but promotes workforce development across the state.

The bill will be part of a package under review by a bipartisan Speaker’s Task Force on police reform.

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