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Kenosha County Sheriff declares a state of emergency before Blake charging decision

Police Shooting Wisconsin
Posted at 9:00 PM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-05 06:49:17-05

KENOSHA COUNTY — The Kenosha County Sheriff's Department has officially declared a state of emergency ahead of the decision on whether or not to charge the police officer accused of shooting Jacob Blake. But the response is not a traditional state of emergency as of yet, but one that prepares department employees to work longer hours, according to a spokesperson late Monday.

Sources shared the memo with TMJ4 News Monday evening, and a sergeant with the Sheriff's Department independently confirmed the document's legitimacy with TMJ4 News. Following the publication of this article, a spokesperson for the Sheriff's Department told TMJ4 News that the interdepartmental declaration as of now only allows employees to work longer hours, and adjust schedules, ahead of the charging decision. The declaration as of now does not immediately lead to a curfew or other more traditional responses associated with a state of emergency.

The memo itself does not mention any specific responses as part of the state of emergency.

In the Jan. 4 memo, Sheriff David G. Beth did declare a "state of emergency" for Kenosha County. He cites a number of reasons for the decision:

  • The city and county may experience "rioting, looting, damage to county and city property and civil unrest."
  • The city and county have a "compelling interest" to keep the peace amid "escalating tension." Human lives and property are "at very high risk."
  • All evictions and service of civil process are suspended effective immediately

Sheriff Beth concludes: "I find that the potential for disaster exists, which requires extraordinary measures to protect the health and well being of the people. Declaring a state of emergency will facilitate and expedite the use of resources to protect persons."

TMJ4 News received the memo shortly after the City of Kenosha's Common Council voted to give the mayor emergency authority to respond to civil unrest following the charging decision.

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That resolution is enacted as soon as Kenosha County District Attorney, Michael D. Graveley, announces his charging decision.

DA Graveley is expected to announce whether his office will charge Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey in the shooting of Blake. That decision is expected within the first two weeks of January, according to officials, and could come as early as this Tuesday.

Gov. Tony Evers on Monday announced the mobilization of 500 members of the National Guard to Kenosha.

Clarification: A previous version of this article stated that the Sheriff's Office had declared a state of emergency, based on a memo shared with TMJ4 News. This article has been updated with nuance shared by a department spokesperson, that the memo as of now only allows for scheduling changes ahead of the charging decision.

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