Police Chief releases statement on alleged racial profiling incident
A statement has been released by Chief of Police Martin Skibba regarding the recent alleged racial profiling incident involving 25-year-old Deandre Pettiford-Bates. In the following, he outlines the reasoning behind investigation tactics on behalf of officers, regardless of color, and also invites residents to consider joining the citizen’s academy.
Submitted by Chief of Police Martin Skibba
On 7-23-18, at 1:21 a.m., law enforcement from Stevens Point Police Department and Portage County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of an armed robbery near the intersection of Center Point Drive and Third Street in the City of Stevens Point. During the initial minutes of the investigation three different individuals were stopped, and one of those was stopped twice by different law enforcement personnel.
The facts leading to officer’s reasonable suspicion to stop and investigate are quite clear.
- Severity of the incident being investigated, person robbed at gun point
- Proximity to location of the armed robbery and immediate time period after incident
- Seeking suspect, possible accomplices, and witnesses information
- Suspect descriptors, clothing descriptors, bag, and suspect who possibly fled on bicycle
At 1:30 a.m. an officer observed a person riding a bicycle away from him who had caught his attention based on clothing descriptors, bag and immediate location and time to the armed robbery. That individual, Deandre Pettiford Bates, was stopped and questioned regarding this investigation.
At 2:01 a.m. Bates posted on Facebook his perception of his contact with officers and deputies. It is clear Bates’ perspective and the officers that spoke with him differ in the contact. While officers are trained to investigate while keeping themselves, fellow officers, and the community safe, this can appear to be short or blunt at times.
Security footage of the contact between Bates and the officers supports the officers due diligence and actions in protecting the community while investigating the crime that took place.
If an officer fails to stop to investigate, they are not doing their job to a satisfactory, community expected level. The Stevens Point administration expects officers to investigate these types of situations fully. In addition, our community expects our officers to investigate and bring to conclusion such events. In this case, within 12 hours of the incident the suspect was taken into custody.
Here are a few more points to be taken into consideration.
- Our mission and core values are the foundation of the Stevens Point Police Department that 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.
- We value community partners and will meet and discuss any issue, including tough issues like racism.
- Our reputation is important and officers 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.
- The severity and urgency of this type of call where a person’s life is threatened adds to the level of risk officers and civilians are confronted with in that moment.
Bates’ perspective of the contact and that of the officers who spoke with him differ. It is these very differences of perspective that have Police Departments and Sheriff’s Offices nationwide sponsoring Citizens Academies much like the joint academy that takes place with multiple public safety agencies participating including the Stevens Point Police Department and the Portage County Sheriff’s Office.
Those seeking to have a better understanding of public safety and the reasons why we do what we do are invited to enroll in the upcoming academy. Please contact the Stevens Point Police Department for academy availability.
When instances such as this arise, there is a great opportunity for dialogue that creates a better understanding between citizens and public safety personnel’s perspectives that the Stevens Point Police Department welcomes.