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Dane County Sheriff prepares to listen and discuss police reform

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney said the past week has taught him and his office a lot about what law enforcement should never be and where the profession needs to change.

He said like much of the country, George Floyd's death horrified him.

"I was just taken totally off my feet when I watched that video," he said.

Mahoney said the image of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin with his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes shows everything an officer shouldn't be and he's just as infuriated to see the three fellow officers there did nothing.

"If you see an officer engaged in that kind of behavior as we saw in Minneapolis you have a duty and a responsibility, a moral responsibility to intercede," he said.

In Wisconsin, Mahoney said the chokehold Chauvin used is unacceptable under any circumstances. He said all law enforcement officers are trained never to use choking as a restraint and to avoid even accidental obstructions to the throat.

"We train to take a person to the ground because it's the safest place to gain control or complaince and then once that individual is taken into control to sit them up, to take the pressure off of their chest and allow them to breathe," he said.

Despite the training, Mahoney said that doesn't mean choking or other examples of excessive force never happen in Wisconsin or even Dane County. To try to prevent that he said he's trying to steer his department towards protecting versus punishing the community.

"We are community caretakers and we are centered on building relationships," he said.

Mahoney pointed to his visit to the Boys and Girls Club Wednesday as an example of his efforts towards outreach and moving towards reform.

Many of the protesters gathered at the Capitol over the past week are critical. Ebony Anderson-Carter said the group is waiting for officers to come to them prepared to listen.

"These kids don't want the police coming out here in armed gear," she said. "They want you to come out here dressed as you are as a friend and as a human being who has a child and talk to these kids."

For many of the protesters, reform isn't enough. They want a fundamental overhaul of the policing system they said perpetuates systematic violence against black citizens.

Meanwhile Mahoney said he's open to change, but he wants to spend the next week listening and learning to what the community wants and needs from it's police.

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Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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