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Maysee Herr, who serves on the county’s diversity affairs committee, led the Toward One Wausau forum held at UW-Marathon County in October 2016.

Marathon County could soon embark on a study on race and its role in the criminal justice system to better understand the dynamics between the two.

County Administrator Brad Karger proposed the study as part of a plan t

Brad Karger

City Pages

Brad Karger

Marathon County Administrator Brad Karger

o repair his strained relationship with local law enforcement. The county board punished Karger with a 30-day unpaid suspension in August for appearing at a May peace march that at times became racially charged. Top law enforcement officials took exception to Karger’s participation, viewing the event as anti-police.

RELATED: Karger investigation cost $43K

Karger says the study begins with gathering some hard facts, numbers related to demographics and jail inmate population, but also looks beyond those stats. Right now, there are starkly different opinions about racial bias in the justice system and whether it exists, Karger says. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but if we can all have common data, that actually gets us somewhere,” Karger says.

Karger proposed the plan in response to the peace march and its fallout, which increased tension between law enforcement and members of the minority community. The rally was held in response to a Hmong teen, Dylan Yang, being tried in adult court for the murder of 13-year-old Isaiah Powell in February 2015. Yang was 15 at the time.

RELATED: Dylan Yang sentenced to 13 years

As it turns out, the study might be groundbreaking. A consultant Karger contacted for advice told him there isn’t any current research on municipalities the size of the Wausau metro area. Current studies have mostly focused on larger cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York. Wausau and Marathon County could be a first, Karger says. The study is in the planning stages, but Karger hopes to present a more fleshed out version soon.

RELATED: Suspension tension continues

Other people in the community are also concerned about local race relations. Last week the UW-Marathon County-based Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service hosted an event called Toward One Wausau: A Dialogue on Community and Diversity. The forum was held to spark a conversation about diversity and how to improve the lives of all people in the Wausau area. The forum was led by Maysee Herr, who also serves on the county’s Diversity Affairs Committee.