Listen MKE: Kenosha — A Year After The Jacob Blake Shooting
It's been a year since Jacob Blake was shot seven times by a Kenosha police officer. What has happened over the past year and what still needs to happen in Kenosha to address systemic racism? Those are the questions Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist James E. Causey dug into in our latest Listen MKE Facebook Live conversation on Thursday, August 19.
Listen MKE is an initiative created by WUWM, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee PBS and the Milwaukee Public Library to help Milwaukee's north side residents get the information they want and need.
Moderated by Causey, the panel discussion included Democratic state Rep. David Bowen of Milwaukee, who has introduced policing legislation; Dayvin Hallmon, a former Kenosha County Board member who fought to have Kenosha County Police wear body cameras; Diamond Hartwell, a Kenosha native and human rights activist; and Justin Blake, Jacob Blake's uncle.
Justin Blake joined Listen MKE to briefly speak on the family's behalf. From his perspective, little has changed for his nephew with Justin Blake saying, "Nothing at all has happened, the police officer who shot my nephew is back at work, there’s a gentleman running for sheriff that murdered somebody 15 years ago, we got arrested and brutalized so nothing absolutely has changed, it’s gotten worse."
Justin Blake said that Jacob Blake's three kid still hold a lot of trauma a year later. The three kids, ages eight, five and three, saw their father shot by police officer Rusten Sheskey as their father approached their SUV door. While the family is hoping that the three kids can live a normal life, Justin Blake said it's hard when when Sheskey is still employed.
"What would help is trying to get some type of justice and correct things in Kenosha, so this doesn't happen to another African American father in front of his children in Kenosha," Justin Blake said.
Meanwhile, state Rep. David Bowen has introduced a series of police legislation, he said, to ensure that a shooting like this doesn't happen again. Bowen noted a 12 bill package he's trying to pass that include bills like holding officers accountable by their colleagues and having the charging decision be made by a court-appointed judge.
"And this really dived into the solutions that were being avoided by the folks that were at the table controlling the conversation around reform. There is no easy way to do this," Bowen expressed. "No, no way to put the things under the rug that is just too controversial to talk about when it comes to an issue so that citizens in the state of Wisconsin can be treated as human beings, they can be respected of their rights."
Still, there are major speed bumps along the way that the family, lawmakers and activist face. Diamond Hartwell understands that the process to get change underway is a long and meticulous one. Hartwell helped make The Commit To Action Roadmap, a group a committees and subcommittees that get together to hyperfocus on specific things like police training.
"I mean a lot of effort was put into it and it was a lot of emotional labor too. And for it to just be sitting on somebody's desk right now is, like, really disappointing. And it's really a slap in the face," she said.