Yesterday a minister from Wausau made accusations of racial profiling against the Wausau Police Department. These are not accusations we take lightly, in fact, we investigate every complaint against our department and hold all employees accountable for their actions. With that said, we have reviewed the reports written by officers and watched all three of the squad videos available from this incident. The reports and videos are all available to the public through an open records request. After evaluating the facts, we confirm the officers handled this situation properly and according to policy.Around 2:30 am on Tuesday, November 24, 2015, an officer on patrol drove past a bar on S. 3rd Avenue in Wausau and observed two men outside. The officer observed “two males within inches of one another and both had their index finger extended pointed towards one another” and the officer could hear them yelling. The facts leading to reasonable suspicion to stop and investigate are quite clear:1) Two people appear to be on the verge of a fight2) It’s 30 minutes after the bar has closed, so the officer should investigate to determine if: a. The bar is open after hours b. These two people might be casing the bar to commit a burglary3) This is an area of the city in which we have received numerous complaints regarding excessive noise, especially after bar time4) At a minimum, the two are being disorderly in a residential area at 2:30 in the morning by yelling at each otherLet’s make no mistake about this situation. If an officer fails to stop to investigate, they are not doing their job to a satisfactory level. The Wausau Police administration expects officers to investigate these types of situations. In addition, our community expects our officers to get involved and attempt to prevent a situation that could turn criminal quickly without proper intervention.The officer checked on the two men and both men say there is nothing going on. The officer asked them to identify themselves. The man later identified as Pavion Phillips provided a false name and date of birth. It was apparent to the officer very quickly that he was lying about his name. The officer gave him several opportunities to be truthful about his name, but Pavion continued to be untruthful. It is a misdemeanor offense in Wisconsin to provide a false name to a police officer. The officer attempted to make an arrest and Pavion resisted arrest. The officers had difficulty controlling Pavion enough to get him into handcuffs because he was actively resisting the officers. They attempted to secure him against the building, but he was able to “twist” himself away from the wall. While on the ground, the railing and steps provided “hand holds” for Pavion to grab onto to prevent officers from getting his hands behind his back. After the use of pepper spray, officers were able to handcuff him. Once he was in a squad car, officers asked the bartender (who was still inside the bar) for a wet cloth to decontaminate Pavion from the pepper spray. Phillips also resisted jailers when he was brought to jail. Phillips was also charged with bail jumping as he was out on bond from another case which required absolute sobriety as well as no contact with a victim in a domestic violence case. That victim was employed by the bar and she was working at the time of this incident.This brings us to yesterday, when Minister Bushbaum invited local media to the courthouse before Pavion’s court hearing for this case. Minister Bushbaum made the claim that the Wausau Police Department is “racist” by racially profiling individuals like Pavion Phillips. Minister Bushbaum stated that she was representing Pavion Phillips and that he had told her how he was mistreated by Wausau Police. Most of the inflammatory statements made by Minister Bushbaum centered around “racism.” Pavion was quoted as saying he was pepper sprayed after he was handcuffed. This is untrue. Officers were unable to handcuff him because he was resisting arrest. This is why he was pepper sprayed. Minister Bushbaum was questioning the integrity of our police department when she told the media that she doesn’t believe the police would have approached her and her husband (both of whom are white) in the exact same scenario. It is the actions of people that determine our response. If it appears two people are about to get into a fight or they are being loud and disorderly, our officers are expected to intervene. The skin color doesn’t matter; it is the actions that determine our response. Once a person lies about their name, they are arrested. If they resist arrest, we are required to take action to affect the arrest. It is the decisions and actions of people that determine the law enforcement response to a situation. Minister Bushbaum has no basis for questioning our integrity in such a manner.Neither Minister Bushbaum nor Pavion Phillips expressed any concerns to Wausau P.D. reference the Phillips case in the four months since the incident and before addressing the media. Phillips has not filed a complaint with Wausau P.D. which would trigger an internal investigation to ensure that proper protocol and policy was followed. Minister Bushbaum has not requested any reports from this incident, nor has she requested a copy of the video from the incident. Minister Bushbaum is basing her opinion on statements from Phillips without attempting to verify facts from the incident. As so many people in our community are well aware, we strive to partner with members of our community. Phillips was not racially profiled. Any officer would have conducted themselves in the same manner regardless of the subject’s race. The behavior of the individuals and the facts of the case generated a police response…not the race of the individual as Minister Bushbaum alleges. Minister Bushbaum’s accusations are unjust and irresponsible, particularly from someone in her position who should have a desire to unite our community rather than divide.Here are a few more points we would like to make to our community regarding this incident and these allegations: 1) Our mission and core values are paramount at Wausau P.D. and we always use them to guide us. Should an officer make a poor decision, we will thoroughly investigate and hold all parties accountable. However, the opposite is also true, should someone make an allegation about police that is false, we want to make sure we present the facts and clear the officers from false allegations. 2) Our reputation is important to us for we work hard every day to gain trust from our community. We gain that trust by engaging the community at a high level, listening to our stakeholders, resolving issues with the best outcome in mind with our community partners, being transparent with all our partners, and holding ourselves accountable. 3) We value community partners and will meet and discuss any issue, including tough issues like racism. 4) Because community trust is essential to a high functioning police department, we must assert ourselves when claims of this nature are made. As a police agency, we cannot stand by while others make baseless accusations that are not supported by facts, toward us and toward our officers. If the only voice the community hears is the allegation from Minister Bushbaum, they might believe her narrative. It is important for the community to hear our voice also so they know how we operate and believe that we will do the right thing…all the time.If you’re still reading this post, thank you for bearing with us as we want to be thorough. It’s important for us to provide you the information to make your own judgment regarding this incident. In addition, if you have concerns regarding police activity or behavior, you can contact our on duty patrol Lieutenant to begin a discussion. They can be reached through our communication center at 715-261-7800.The video attached to this post is a combination video from 2 squad cars. We wanted to be sure to show you the initial contact and then the video footage that best displays the resisting arrest portion of this incident.
Posted by Wausau Police Department on Thursday, March 10, 2016