Kenosha County Executive Jim Kreuser
Kenosha County Executive Jim Kreuser speaks during a Monday press conference, a week and a day after a Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back at point-blank range. (Photo by Jonathon Sadowski)

County executive, mayor dodge questions on racism in local policing.

Body cameras for Kenosha County sheriff’s deputies will be included in the 2021 budget, County Executive Jim Kreuser announced Monday, a week and a day after a Kenosha police officer shot a Black man seven times in the back at point-blank range.

Although Kreuser and Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian, both Democrats, have in recent days said they were committed to fighting systemic racism in Kenosha, the body camera budget is the only major change announced locally in the wake of protests and unrest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Neither the Sheriff’s Department nor the city police department currently have body cameras, even though funding for cameras for the city’s police force was approved in 2017

Kreuser’s announcement came the same day legislative Republicans refused to attend a special session called by Gov. Tony Evers to address a series of police reform bills. Proposals in that package—originally introduced in June after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police—include banning no-knock warrants and chokeholds, expanding use-of-force training, and publicly releasing use-of-force reports.

Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said in Monday’s conference that he is “open to anything” but said he does not know what any proposed reforms are.

“I’m open to making whatever changes we can,” Beth said.

Kreuser and Antaramian also dodged questions on whether local law enforcement contributed to systemic racism in the community.

“I think law enforcement is doing a very good job in our community,” Antaramian said. “And like every entity and every group out there, we have to deal with racism in general.”

Kreuser said “every community has work to do” but did not offer specifics.

“We’re going to be taking those steps,” Kreuser said. “Not [only] in the short range, but also the long range—how we do training, working with our people and our community.”

Violent unrest and riots in Kenosha have subsided in recent days, though protesters in the city continue to demand justice after the Blake shooting and double-murder by an armed militia member. President Donald Trump plans to visit Kenosha on Tuesday, though Evers, Kreuser, and Antaramian, all asked him not to show up so soon after the shooting.

This image from a video seen widely across social media reportedly shows a Kenosha police officer grabbing the back of a man’s shirt as he tries to enter a vehicle. The video appears to show the officer shooting the man in the back multiple times.

“Now is not the time for elected officials to ignore armed militants and out-of-state instigators who want to contribute to our anguish,” Evers wrote in a letter to Trump over the weekend. “Moreover, as the Kenosha community continues their recovery efforts, I am likewise concerned that an in-person visit from you will require a massive re-direction of these resources to support your visit at a time when it is critical that we continue to remain focused on keeping the people of Kenosha safe and supporting the community’s response.”

Trump appeared to respond to those concerns by tweeting on Monday “there would be no Kenosha right now” without him. He credited himself with the current peace in the city, claiming he sent the National Guard to town.

Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, the top National Guard official in Wisconsin, declined to directly refute Trump’s tweet but appeared to address it during Monday’s press conference, highlighting that Evers—not the White House—sent Guardsmen from Wisconsin, as well as from Alabama, Michigan, and Arizona.

“What I want to re-emphasize is that the process is actually governor-to-governor,” Knapp said.

Antaramian declined to comment on Trump’s tweet, but Kreuser lambasted the president for claiming “there would be no Kenosha” without him.

“That’s a false statement,” Kreuser said.

“Kenosha is going to be on the comeback,” Kreuser added. “And for someone to say that we wouldn’t exist but for their action—when I believe it to be false, because I know things too—I just have to tell you what I believe the answer is. And that’s false.”