By Rhea Riley
Sheriff-elect Earnell Lucas greeted over 30 members of the public for a lunch and questionnaire last week on Nov. 28. The luncheon was held at the Riverfront Pizzeria where local community members and members of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative met for an intimate dialogue on Lucas’s new tasks while in office.
“Once I get in, we are going to do everything we can to treat everyone with dignity and respect,” said Lucas in reference to his campaign issues and the care and treatment of prisoners.
Lucas tackled various challenging questions with many referencing prisoner’s treatment.
“My jail is simply a holding facility for pre-trial detainees, so it’s my hope that they go before a magistrate and once they go out the door that they never return,” said Lucas.
He continued: “Let’s give them connection to their family, let’s give them some education and other tools and resources so that when they get back out they don’t return back into the system. That is my commitment to you and to this group.”
The importance of caring and processing those with mental health issues was also addressed at the luncheon.
“A holding facility is not a place for persons that are suffering with mental health crisis and challenges,” said Lucas.
Lucas stated he doesn’t want the county jail to be a place “where people deposit folks that are in mental crisis.” The 25-year veteran of the Milwaukee Police Department stated that mental health is not a law enforcement issue nor is his office equipped to handle it properly, however he wants to work with other local resources to find a better solution.
Amongst discouragement from peers about his limited budget and desire for change, Lucas stated he doesn’t want to instill fear but believes he can tackle many of these issues by directing the funds correctly and bringing in a new position at the sheriff’s office to hold the department accountable.
“We’ve got to find a way, we’ve got to find the resources, and we can’t continue to say we don’t have it because we can, and we must,” said Lucas.
Lucas revealed that he will be implementing a chief legal and compliance officer in the Milwaukee county sheriff’s office. According to Lucas, this role has been used in other sheriff’s officers in the country but it’s a first for Wisconsin.
Lucas also addressed bringing in more community engagement with a new position as well. This is an attempt to open the dialogue between the sheriff’s office and the public.
Other attendees at the luncheon included judicial candidates, Danielle Shelton, candidate for the Milwaukee County Circuit Judge and Court of Appeals Judge Lisa Neubauer, Wisconsin supreme court candidate. Both will be running for offices in the spring of 2019 and listened in on the importance discussions.
Lucas won in the democratic primary in August and ran unopposed in the November election. Lucas is scheduled to be sworn in in January.