Kenosha Faith Group Rejects Sheriff’s Apology for “Offensive” Comments


    An ecumenical coalition of churches in Kenosha has publicly rejected the apology of Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth for advocating the building of “warehouses” to lock up “trash” people for life sentences for minor crimes like shoplifting.

    Congregations United to Serve Humanity (CUSH) issued a statement Tuesday after Beth met with the NAACP of Kenosha and issued a public apology Monday.

    “Of particular concern to us as faith leaders in Kenosha County are Sheriff Beth’s assertions that there are people ‘not worth saving’ … and that there are segments of the population who should simply ‘go away.’  To the first point, we are united in the affirmation that every life is worth saving and every person, however troubled or felonious, is deserving of dignity,” 

    Beth’s comments came at a press conference Thursday after more than $4,000 worth of merchandise was stolen from an outlet mall in Pleasant Prairie. Police pursued a suspect, who led them on a chase that exceeded 100 miles per hour and ended when the suspect’s vehicle crashed into a car being driven by a 16-year-old who had just gotten his driver license. His mother was also in the car.

    An emotional sheriff said Thursday that the five suspects, who are all black, “are a cancer on society” and “need to go away.”

    “We need to come up with laws that at a certain threshold, these people just disappear. We build large warehouses and we have individual cells, and we put them in it. We don’t let them back out,” he said.

    Amid community backlash, Beth met with NAACP Kenosha President Veronica King, who called the comments “offensive,” and later issued a public apology.

    “In the press conference I should have kept my comments better directed toward the incident itself and not allowed my emotions to get the better of me at the time,” he wrote. “Even though my comments were not meant to offend people, I can see how they may have. I will always be passionate in my defense for the vulnerable and the victims, but I will do my best not let this happen again.”

    King said the apology is an important first step, but CUSH is not is not ready to forgive and forget.

    This country has, by a wide margin, the highest incarceration rate in the world, and Wisconsin’s rate of incarceration for African-American and Native American men is the highest in the nation,” they said in a statement. “‘Warehousing’ of people convicted of crime – especially people of color and poor people – has not worked and is not the solution. Studies have shown that overuse of incarceration actually INCREASES crime.”

    CUSH also encourages concerned citizens to attend the Kenosha County Board General Meeting, Tuesday, February 6th at 7:30 pm and the Kenosha County Judiciary and Law Committee Meeting, Wednesday Feb 7th at 6:30 pm, both at the Kenosha County Administrative Building.