KABOOM! University Of Wisconsin Director Of Community Relations Says That Arresting Shoplifters Is Over-Policing


This story made my cranium explode like Krakatoa, and it really scared my dog. If it doesn’t make your head explode, I am worried about you. I’m worried about you anyway. I’m worried about all of us.

UW Director of Community Relations Everett Mitchell, speaking at a University of Wisconsin Madison panel dealing with “Best Policing Practices,” argued that police should stop responding to shoplifting and thefts at Wal-Mart and Target in order to reduce what he refers to as “over policing” of the community. Yes, he really believes that enforcing the law regarding property crimes against retailers is “over-policing.”  Mitchell, an employee of an institution that exists to enlighten the young and impressionable, said that communities should be able to decide for themselves what laws should be enforced, and that  the ultimate goal of law enforcement is not the actual enforcement of law, but community safety as defined by the community itself. If the community thinks declaring open season on the local Walmart—looting, essentially—is just fine, then the police shouldn’t arrest anyone for it.  Theft from big box stores, he explained, is an example of a crime that police and the community may view differently.

How the owner of the stores that get robbed, the employees that will lose jobs when the store leaves to relocate someplace that doesn’t think theft is “safe,” and the families that will have no place to shop might feel about his plan was not discussed. Mitchell, you see, is an irresponsible idiot.

He was also formerly an assistant District Attorney in the Dane County District Attorney’s Office. He must have been great at that job.

Mitchell said,

“I just don’t think that they should be prosecuting cases or bringing up cases for people who steal from Wal-Mart. I just don’t think that, right? I don’t think Target or all them other places, them big box stores that have insurance. They should be using justification, the fact that people steal from there as justification to start engaging in aggressive police practices, right?”

Right…Huh? I’m sorry, the noise from my head blast made it hard to hear you.

After his comments were reported, with many resulting head explosions, Mitchell came out with one of those “my words didn’t mean what I said” explanations, and he still didn’t make any sense. Apparently with he help of an editor and a proof-reader, he wrote in part:

“My comments around “big box” retailers were in no way an endorsement of shoplifting or other criminal behavior, but part of a point about how the distribution of police resources to areas with high numbers of misdemeanor crimes can bring low income or people of color into frequent contact with law enforcement.As it relates to misdemeanor offenses themselves, I believe the community should explore a restorative justice model in which non-violent offenders between the ages of 17 to 25 perform community service. Through my many roles, I believe in working with law enforcement and the community to reduce disparities, while also ensuring Madison is a safe place for everyone.”

Naturally, Madison will be a safer place if thieves are allowed to run wild in Walmarts and Targets.

This is the same demented message as before,  just more carefully stated.  Police have to stop arresting people for stealing things from stores. (Note that he didn’t explain how his “insurance” remark was misinterpreted, since he can’t.)  Mitchell’s  logic is cracked, and his values are shredded.

If cops responding to thefts “bring low income or people of color into frequent contact with law enforcement,” the solution is for low income or people of color to stop stealing. Irresponsible community leaders like Mitchell trivializing theft will only lead to more theft. His “restorative justice model” simply makes crime pay. A criminal calculates the risk of being caught and the likely punishment against the benefits of stealing, and with this “model,” which is simply “don’t punish crime,” the calculation is easy. Take a shot: what’s to lose?

These are the kinds of crackpot theories we can expect to hear more from Bernie and Hillary as the fake crisis of “over-incarceration” is cynically injected into the list of progressive issues designed to win the votes of the friends, families and supporters of criminals—admittedly a large group. There are very, very few people in prison who haven’t broken criminal laws, and most of them have done so many times, the first few times without being imprisoned at all. I worked as a public defender and took court appointed cases: I can’t think of  a single case where a first time offender, regardless of his race, was thrown in jail. I was recently in court for a day and watched several sentencings in Virginia. One crook–he was the kind of thief, exactly, that Everett Mitchell thinks isn’t worth the police’s time–had been charged with thefts four times before without ever serving a prison sentence. I knew we’d eventually get to Mitchell’s solution to over-incarceration: don’t enforce the law. Look the other way. Not doing so is “over-policing.”

A  university director of community relations who makes such irresponsible suggestions in public is affirmatively dangerous. He should not have a job or a title that leads to an”approving murmur from the audience” of ignorant and gullible people who agree that stealing from stores with insurance isn’t really a crime. If he wants to proclaim such anti-social theories, Mitchell should  carry a sign and shout in the park. on his own behalf.

It’s also a lot less messy if people’s heads explode outside.


Pointer: Rick Jones

41 thoughts on “KABOOM! University Of Wisconsin Director Of Community Relations Says That Arresting Shoplifters Is Over-Policing

  1. “I don’t think Target or all them other places, them big box stores that have insurance.”

    This guy graduated from a law school and passed a bar exam? He’s employed by a major (albeit lefty) university? Clearly the grammar police have been neutered in his “community.” I guess they’re now gainfully employed doing damage control and writing press releases for the morons at Badger HQ.

  2. After reading his first comment, I paused and thought to myself “So he doesn’t like all those black people getting arrested?” and lo and behold, his second comment reveals exactly that. (And low income people. Which of course has some overlap on a Venn diagram). You can see some of these guys coming a mile off.
    This sort of thinking really bugs me. Can these people not see this is the epitome of trying to fix the symptoms of the problem, not the causes?
    Yes, the average black person is worse off than a white, but the solution is to go to the root of the problem – changing attitudes and mindsets, over generations if need be!
    But that’s not fast or visible enough for some people, who demand affirmative action and non-enforcement of crimes, sticking plasters that I can’t believe would ever be undone, even if they could result in some appearance of equality…

    *cough* Or so I believe. Sorry for the rant.

  3. i have to assume if president obaama had a son, he would look just like Everett Mitchell, especially since his job probably pays 100k/year, and by the sounds of it, they could easily have found somebody infinitely more qualified while still checking that box.

  4. These crazy ideas have been circulating in the criminal justice system for years, mostly among academics who are not well-versed in the “boots on the ground” realities of trying to restore and/or maintain order and lawful conduct in high-crime communities using effective policing strategies. For the most part these ideas are recognized and disregarded as the dangerous crackpot notions that they are, but now they seem to be fitting nicely into the agenda of appeasing a politically useful demographic. Hearing it from any source is troubling, but only when I hear respected police leaders mouthing this nonsense will I officially abandon hope and start building the bunker.

  5. I have also heard that the undercover security employees will not stop a theft in walmart, even if they see it occur. walmart has acquiesced to the political environs of today. when they “voluntarily” increased minimum wage, I sold every share I had. when you have a CEO more concerned with the perception of a small group of radicals, than on what it takes to run his business, its time to hit the exit. the tragedy is it destroys the lives of many hardworking people. sad to see. hopefully target avoids the self-righteous death spiral.

    • This isn’t quite correct. Security personnel will respond after the theft has occurred– when they have proof the thief has walked out of the store with unpaid merchandise. No other store employees are allowed to, and in fact in most other retail stores, that don’t have dedicated security, employees aren’t allowed to respond at all. (My sister worked at a GAP store where they tracked a person who walked around the store shoving hundreds of dollars of merchandise in a bag, then watched her walk out.)

      But this has nothing to do with politics; it’s to avoid lawsuits. If a store employee stops the wrong person by accident, or even just someone found not guilty by the courts for whatever reason, that person could sue the company. And the chance to sue Walmart or other major retailers puts dollar signs in peoples eyes, so the corporations aren’t willing to leave it up to the judgement of normal retail employees. But managers and specially trained security personnel can still step in if they have sufficient evidence and know they’ll have a case.

  6. Oh, my gosh. OH. MY. GOSH.

    I am not exaggerating that my eyes are, literally, tearing up from frustration. And I’m a man, so I don’t cry easily (sarcasm tossed in to ease the pain). I am so freaking disappointed in…people. Black people, the whites who enable them, other blacks who cheer them on in blatant self interest, the ignorants who willfully don’t know any better. I’m just so….disappointed, disheartened, saddened, angry. Pick an adjective.

    If any of you have time, here is the link to a very simple, but very smart, short video, explaining why the myth of “all conservatives are racist” just isn’t true: https://youtu.be/TgMHicHSnLo

    It’s nothing that we all don’t already know, but the speaker discusses how Affirmative Action, in it’s current form, is inherently is racist by suggesting that whites can meet certain standards that blacks simply aren’t able to meet. And this (the topic of the post) is just more of the same…that enforcing the law leads to a disparate outcome (oh, how I HATE that phrase, when used in this context). Since the population of prisons is disproportionately black (apparently, solely because racism; never because of the autonomous choices made by grown-ass adults, who happen to be, disproportionately, black), something must be done! Address the behavior leading to disproportionate arrests? Nope, thats not it. Better parenting education for minority parents? Noooooo. Look for possible sentencing inequities? Closer, but not quite there. Oh, I know…LOWER THE STANDARD OF ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR, to “help” minorities, regardless of the other, very real, and very serious unintended consequences that Jack mentioned.

    You see, blacks cannot seriously be expected to follow the law in a similar way to whites. We’re simply not capable. So these laws, these rules, are inherently racist. How dare you expect me to not shoplift! Thats a part of my culture!!

    My gosh. I really don’t like speaking in hyperbole, but man, our society is going to hell in a hand basket. As much as I detest Trump, his one redeeming value is that he unashamedly tilts at these kinds of windmills, which has had a weird empowering effect for others to do the same (see: Bush, Jeb). Lets hope that trend continues.

      • Embarrassing! Thats the adjective I was looking for!

        Seriously though, I feel like Im trapped in a world where everyone is insisting that 2+2=5, and worse yet, policy is enforced based on that way of thinking. That’s not to say what I think is always, often, or even sometimes right. It’s just to say, I can explain why I think what I think in a way that makes light years more sense than “it’s ok because of the legacy of slavery”.

        Who, in their ever-loving mind can argue that lowering basic expectations of behavior, past the point of criminality is progress????

  7. The obvious solution is to “allow” insurance companies to become part of the solution and simply run the big box stores as warehouses for consumer goods for the “poor.” WalMart can then pay insurance companies and insurance companies can decide who qualifies for this new form of retail welfare.

    What would WalMart use to pay the insurance companies?
    All their immorally obtained money.

    It’s time WalMart started giving back to the communities they’ve destroyed.

    ***The above suggestion is offered ironically in case there are any readers who think this is a great idea.***

  8. Why this moron was hired to serve in a well paid university administrative job would be interesting to research. Perhaps Rudy Giuliani could come out to Madison and carefully explain to the academics his “broken window” theory of policing. Perhaps a few of them would understand it.

  9. As a lifelong resident of the “77 Square Miles Surrounded By A Sea Of Reality,” and a recovering, non-participating Lefty graduate of the U.W. (a ‘major (albeit lefty) university’ H/T Other Bill) I thought I’d seen it all, but this honestly left me suckin’ wind!

    Seems just about every news story coming out of the Dairy State lately does everything to confirm that we aren’t overly represented in the Mensa Society.

    While this regrettably leaves me unsurprised, I am marginally comforted by but one thought for the near future.

    I’m ready for some Football!!



    • Cheesehead. Hah.

      Hey, Scott Walker’s nice to see and let’s hear it for that Sheriff in or around MIlwaukee. Never mind the whack jobs at Marquette. Too bad Al Maquire died so long ago. He’d have made a great president for Marquette.

  10. “I just don’t think that they should be prosecuting cases or bringing up cases for people who steal from Wal-Mart. I just don’t think that, right? I don’t think Target or all them other places, them big box stores that have insurance [ should be considered policing priorities ].

    This hurts my head. I think he was abandoning a thought that hadn’t come out right; that the thought expressed in print is gobble-d-gook is an artifact of transcription.

    As a paid spokesman though, his job is to speak clearly, and he clearly failed.

    They should [ n’t ] be using [ as ] justification, the fact that people steal from there as justification to start engaging in aggressive police practices, right?”

    After stepping back from the previously awkwardly phrased statement, which in isolation might have been overlooked, he then produced this gem. Again, if one generously allows that he is correcting himself on the fly, it stops being verbal gibberish (although remaining social-policy gibberish).

    But again, as a director of community relations, his job is to COMMUNICATE with the community the university is relating to. He does not seem able to do his job competently!

    • On the other hand, as with people claiming to see the future in tea leaves, may be the pattern-recognition circuitry in my brain is just desperately trying to discern meaning in that pile of words…

  11. Does the obliviot want to have his insurance and prices multiply by ten? Does he want to pay mine then? We’re already a bit too lax on these laws and this is more of the same slippery slope. The problems do need more than just locking up criminals, but working on ways to make playing it straight MORE appealing, like training and opportunity. Once someone has or knows someone with a small business, law and order become important. The ‘Big Box’ can weather a riot in places like Baltimore, but the small businesses owned by locals cannot. And those are the ones that plow more of the benefit in the area because they are not subsidizing stores in the next city.

    I think he is mistaking Public Safety as being only about traffic stops and defective ladders. Safety is also protecting us from muggers and thieves. People’s possessions and homes represent the time it took out of their lives on top of the cost. A business affects many people in one swoop. Even IF the insurance pays up promptly and correctly (a big IF), people can’t afford the copays and the time lost from their families and careers. And how many may have additional health crises triggered by stress added by the theft, owners or workers?

    I seem to recall stories that a many shoplifters were the organized groups, not the 8 yr old taking a pack of gum. The 8 yr old should get a good scare. The teams, should be arrested, as they ARE criminals. They are not in a shopping spree. You don’t accidentally leave with a cart full of toasters. Arrest should be the expected risk for everyone.

  12. I wonder how many people know how insurance works? There seems to be a huge segment of the population without any clue. Especially elite university “community relations” people. Although, to be fair, the average person would have a far greater grasp of reality than anyone at any university.

    The “poor” and the “elite” seem to be suffering from the same ignorance about how things work.

  13. Let’s analyze the actual cost of shoplifting. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that a pack of gum costs the store 9 cents and it sells it for 10 cents–a 1 cent profit. Somebody steals the pack of gum. The store is not only out the 1 cent profit, it is out the 9 cent cost, so it must sell at least 9 more packs of gum just to break even. No business can operate that way for long.

  14. I was halfway through the comments before realizing that this was happening in where I now live. That’s rather scary.

    On the other hand, now that I am one myself, with a real job and all, I’m successfully convening fellow concerned citizens in order to teach people how to actually be “grown-ass adults”* as Chris Bentley puts it. Before I’m through with this town, this practice of treating symptoms and trying to avoid personal change will be swept away.

    *I tend not to use swearing because it usually describes things sloppily, but I have become rather fond of this particular phrase because I feel its connotation succinctly and emphatically communicates the concept of personal responsibility as a minimum standard for people.

        • By “Judos to the ethical,” I meant: “May ethical persons become so skilled at judo, verbal and otherwise, including through judicious use of rich phrases such as ‘grown-ass adults,’ that the societal tide turns and the vast majority of currently unethical persons awakens to the errors of its ways, repents, and behaves in the most diligently ethical ways for all time.”

          I meant it as part of a positive cheer. “Kudos” has always sounded so “judo-y” to me, I could not resist.

          So I’m an incompetent cheerleader – news?

  15. It appears that Wilson knew nothing of the shoplifting incident when he became involved with Brown. I am speculating that it was just a revenue stop that turned sour and wound up costing Wilson his job and put a big hole in the Ferguson and St. Louis county budgets.

    • I know that. The point is that the guy should have been arrested anyway, which is why he resisted. An example of a police officer doing initially the right thing for the wrong reason. It doesn’t justify the stop, although Brown was initially told to get on the sidewalk, which he refused to do, before he was arrested.As with Martin-Zimmerman: two guys acting like assholes, one has a gun, and the guy without the gun apparently was the aggressor.

      • My point should not be restricted to and is not invalidated, by the Brown incident. I should have stuck with my point that some policing has more to do with revenue then public safety and this too generates disrespect and contempt for institutions. As was shown by the dust-up that I got into over McCain’s Silver Star I will admit when I am ignorant of the facts and will change my position when presented with the truth. Mitchell had a valid point which he then destroyed by applying it to acts that should be sanctioned.

  16. Amusingly enough:

    “Mitchell, an employee of an institution that exists to enlighten the young and impressionable, said that communities should be able to decide for themselves what laws should be enforced, and that the ultimate goal of law enforcement is not the actual enforcement of law, but community safety as defined by the community itself.”

    Is actually a true statement, it’s too bad Mitchell, the unconquerable moron that he is, doesn’t realize that communities DO decide for themselves what should be enforced…they then turn around and make those things into LAWS…then turn around and empower certain individuals to enforce those laws…POLICE!!!

    So, when the irreconcilably idiotic Mitchell sees a Law, he doesn’t realize he sees what a community has already decided needs to be enforced.

  17. It aggravates me to no end that these left-wing morons think want to violate the law ‘for the greater good”. Are they too stupid to too juvenile to understand the great danger of that line of thinking? From the Supreme Court to this guy, they just want their ‘slide’ to win. They don’t understand the danger of a society that is ruled, not by laws, but by the whims of those in power at the moment. Why don’t we let the communities decide which laws to enforce? Sure, lets see how that would work out in Alabama in 1965? Oh, we did. We didn’t like it that very much, did we? Let’s let the president rewrite laws if he doesn’t think they are working the way he wants them to? Lets see what could happen if a man like Donald Trump becomes President. Thank you very much, Supreme Court.

    The basic problem is that all these people feel that ‘justice’ is when the side they supports gets their way. This is an infantile view of justice, but I guess it is the one they are teaching in law school these days. I wish they would teach the importance of the rule of law.

    As to Mitchell’s suggestion, there are places where this occurs. In many poor neighborhoods, people have given up on locking their doors. They hear people come in, steal what they they want and leave in the night. They don’t dare resist for fear of being injured or killed. They know if they lock the door, their door or windows will be broken. Their culture just accepts this type of crime as normal. This lack of security, lack of property protection, makes it virtually impossible to escape poverty. I can no longer pretend that this isn’t, in fact, the purpose of progressive policies.

  18. I am dismayed by your coverage of noted Madison community leader, Reverend Everett Mitchell. In a community panel last week, Mr. Mitchell referenced Madison Police Department data shared extensively in private and public. Based on this information, the majority of officer interventions and arrests are of African American males, ages 17-25, at shopping malls, discount stores and large retailers.

    Reverend Mitchell’s comment, taken irresponsibly out of context, offered these arrests are predicated on the poverty in which three out of every four Black Madison youth live. While large insured entities can cover the fiscal loss, the real cost is to Madisonians as the homes they return to after arrest are primarily within Black communities.

    As a seasoned former-prosecutor, Mr. Mitchell has expertise to speak to which charges/counts are pursued by the police and courts, especially as legal professionals call to address racial disparities. As an UW Community Relations official, and catalyst for the South Madison Partnership that brings together the University and South Madison which comprised of predominantly poor communities of color, he is well aware of how criminal charges affect race and poverty. As a Pastor and humanitarian, Reverend Mitchell has the authority of faith to suggest what ought to be criminalized or restored by communities.

    Mr. Mitchell is astute in his conviction that Madison and capitalism can sustain and advance, without criminalizing people and particularly youth of color. We ought to thank him for his service and efforts in helping us all to become aware and to act.

    • “Mr. Mitchell is astute in his conviction that Madison and capitalism can sustain and advance, without criminalizing people and particularly youth of color.”

      Thank you for weighing in, but you are tragically wrong. Theft is criminal, and arguing that it should be decriminalized is irresponsible, foolish, and ignorant. There is no imaginable context in which his statements could be regarded as anything else.

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