UW Director of Community Relations Says Shoplifting Not a Crime

At a University of Wisconsin Madison panel dealing with “Best Policing Practices,” UW Director of Community Relations Everett Mitchell recommended that police stop responding to shoplifting and theft at Wal-Mart and Target as a way to reduce what he refers to as, “over policing” of the community.

In his introduction, Mitchel argued that communities should be able to decide for themselves what laws should be enforced. He argued that the ultimate goal of law enforcement is not the actual enforcement of law, but community safety as defined by the community itself. Mitchell cited theft from big box stores as an example of a crime that police and the community may view differently.

To an approving murmur from the audience, Mitchell advocated,“I just don’t think that they should be prosecuting cases or [unintelligible] 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?”

He went on to argue that, “I go to these meetings and that’s what they throw up there on the table, ‘look at where all this crime is happening, at the East Towne and the West Towne Mall, and the Wal-Marts and Targets, that’s where crime is happening, that’s why we have to focus so much’…they do that all the time to justify why they’re going to over police our children.”

Mitchell formerly served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Dane County District Attorney’s Office and currently serves as the UW Director of Community Relations a job that, according to his LinkedIn profile, “Represent[s] the UW-Madison Chancellor’s Office and institutional positions on community development, education, broadening UW-Madison’s presence in the local community, nurturing partnerships, and cultural issues through membership on and leadership on various public and private boards, commissions and committees.”