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La Crosse Police Department gets $1 million in grants for mental health responses and more

La Crosse Tribune - 11/12/2022

Nov. 11—La Crosse City Council has approved accepting over $1 million in grants for the La Crosse Police Department.

The grants will fund a variety of programs within the department to support responses to mental health crises, domestic violence support, new training and equipment.

Each grant has specific conditions and requirements on how to use the funds. Three of the grants come from federal resources at the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and the fourth is from the Wisconsin Department of Administration.

All totaled, the four grants equal $1,035,946.

From the OJP, the department received $369,008 to be used to finance one police position for three years and a crisis response employee in the La Crosse County Human Services Crisis Unit. This grant also requires a local match from the city of $134,185 that is to be shared across both positions for the next three years.

The grant will allow the police department's Community Resource Unit (CRU), a collaboration between LCPD and the county, to expand from one co-response team to two teams available to respond to mental health service calls and connect individuals with the appropriate resources.

The unit was established in July 2021. Between its inception and September 2022, the co-response team had 1,635 contacts with community members, according to LCPD Captain Avrie Schott.

Officers in the CRU wear soft clothes — not a full uniform — and drive an unmarked police car which Schott said helps with the comfort of community members.

Schott is excited for the addition of a second team because it will help the co-response team serve more of the community and spend more time with individuals.

"This co-response team can stay with one of our consumers in our community and fill those gaps," Schott said. "Whether it be sitting with them and taking them to an appointment so that they have someone to be with them there. Whether it be finding the resources like if there's a financial burden that's creating that crisis or if they need to get in with their counselor."

Another grant from the OJP is to be used to improve criminal justice responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. The grant specifically comes from the OJP's Office of Violence Against Women and is in the amount of $500,000.

The grant is a renewal and will continue to fund one Domestic Abuse Reduction Team (DART) investigator position and the DART advocate with New Horizons Shelter and Outreach Centers. Both positions will be funded for another three years.

The two positions work in collaboration to help the victim of abuse, connect the victim with resources, identify repetitive domestic incidents and hold the perpetrator accountable.

"I think it's definitely reducing those incidences of domestic abuse happening within a person's relationship. Because New Horizons is reaching out right away to that victim that may be in a very lethal situation of abuse," said Ann Kappauf, executive director of New Horizons in La Crosse.

For calls when a victim isn't in imminent harm, the advocate and the investigator will go together to help the victim form a safety plan and have a contact in both law enforcement and New Horizons.

"It's such a unique position and we have other advocates also, but this one in particular ensures that law enforcement is receiving information about domestic violence and how it affects the victim," Kappauf said.

The last federal grant is in the amount of $14,298. This grant gets split in half between the police department and the La Crosse County Sheriff's Office. Schott said the police department will use its half to buy new tasers.

From the Wisconsin Department of Administration, the La Crosse Police Department was awarded $152,940 to be used for law enforcement programs related to recruitment, training, and community policing initiatives.

Schott said the grant will be used to fund a new training called Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) which will be a collaborative effort with community members to train police officers in how to better intervene in situations they witness.

"It gives us the opportunity to build those community relationships and emphasizes collaboration, that community partnership and allows for officers' health and wellness recognizing 'hey, we need you to step in here and do better for the community,'" Schott said.

The police department is currently working to identify and connect with area services agents to partner with for the training.

Many local police departments also received this grant. The state divided allocations to municipalities based on the size of the population it serves. La Crosse Police Department received the second largest grant, following Kenosha Police Department.


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