Monona to host ongoing racial bias conversations for ‘self-examination’ and ‘self-reflection’

Details will be posted later on the City of Monona website

MONONA, Wis. — Monona Police Chief Walter Ostrenga said he was shocked when he saw the body camera footage involving his officers handcuffing a black man in a home he was renting after someone called to report a “suspicious person”.

Ostrenga acknowledged that this incident was not a good look in the midst of everything that’s happening in the country.

When asked how he would have handled the situation differently, Ostrenga said, “Well that’s a tough question. If i could go back right now and if I had my powers to change things, I would say we have to respond with a phone call. And maybe it ends up we don’t even respond to that. Can we do that? Well that’s touchy. That’s the way it’s taught in the academy. It’s a textbook entry of what they did with their weapons out and detaining someone but maybe it’s time the book gets changed.”

City administrator Bryan Gadow said he and many others feel the same.

“It puts a sharp focus for us on the conversations we need to have as a community.”

Many of the city leaders, who are predominately white, are taking the lead by organizing ongoing racial bias conversations that they say are long overdue. They’re hoping these conversations can change the community for the better, but also help the city show more diverse representation in leadership roles, too.

“Self examination and self reflection upon ourselves and the way we operate as a city,” Gadow said, “but also provide a space for members of the community to have that conversation and have a dialogue.”

Gadow and Ostrenga acknowledged that they need to be able to get through the discomfort that these conversations could bring to a lot of people in order for real change to happen.

When asked if he was prepared to have what could be uncomfortable conversations as a white man in a leadership role, Ostrenga said, “I’m already uncomfortable. From what happened the other day, it has not been comfortable at all. If we can communicate with people and talk about what happened, I think that can do nothing but improve my comfort level, and improve my knowledge, and improve my compassion and improve my empathy for what people are going through.”

For updates on when and where the racial bias conversations will be held, keep checking the City of Monona website here.