By Paola Ruiz and Kwanza Prince
East Boston, Mass. and New York, N.Y.
At a recent press conference, Wisconsin Democratic congressional candidate Tom Palzewicz said he does not believe in “defunding the police,” but instead supports what he called “investment and reinvestment” to other social services.
“I think a lot of the dollars need to be moved from our policing system and reinvested into our mental health and a whole bunch of other areas,” he said.
Palzewicz, who is running to replace the retiring Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin’s 5th District, said police are too often called to treat issues they are not trained to address. “The way I describe this is: Our police force shouldn’t have to be
the one that gets called for everything that happens in our society,” he said.
One in four deaths that result from police encounters are individuals with mental health conditions, according to a report from the Treatment Advocacy Center. If funds were in-
vested in programs well-versed in these issues, he said, that would provide callers with an alternative to the police, and the fatality rate would decrease.
Palzewicz, a Navy veteran, ran against and lost to longtime Rep. Sensenbrenner in 2018 with only 38 percent of the vote. With Sensenbrenner retiring, Palzewicz has a clearer path to office, though the district is reliably red.
In an effort not to alienate more conservative members of his district, Palzewicz objects to the terminology “defunding the police,” saying, “it doesn’t necessarily solve the problem.” Yet his strategy of “reinvestment” sounds similar to most calls for defunding, in that he would move money spent on police activities to other government services while stripping police departments of their military-grade weapons.
“I think mental health is a huge issue in this country that has absolutely no dollars dedicated to it,” Palzewicz said.
“In Wisconsin, we spend more money on prisons than on education, and that tells you about where our priorities are, and our priorities need to change on that,” he added.