A message critical of “police violence” is the apparent cause of a Barron County Board of Supervisors Executive Committee decision to cut $25,000 in funding to the Embrace nonprofit organization for survivors of domestic violence.
After a closed executive session following its regular monthly meeting Wednesday, Oct. 7, members of the executive committee voted to support a funding cut requested by the Barron County Department of Health and Human Services and the Barron County Sheriff’s Department.
The county will also no longer be represented on the Embrace board of directors.
Headquartered in Spooner, Embrace serves victims of domestic violence in Barron, Rusk and Washburn counties, and maintains a shelter for abuse victims in Ladysmith.
Excerpts from the Embrace statement said, in part, that Embrace “cannot end one form of violence without addressing the other. Racism, police violence, sexual violence and domestic violence all have the same root causes. Embrace supports the movement for Black Lives. We will hear their words, lift up their voices and stand in the anti-violence values of our organization.”
Earlier this year, Embrace Executive Director Katie Bement had made a presentation to the board of supervisors. At the time, the organization was actively seeking to increase its Barron County staffing which, at present, is the responsibility of a single worker.
In a statement released to Washburn County-based DrydenWire, Health and Human Services Director Stacey Frolik said the Embrace Board of Directors had released a statement “condemning the work of law enforcement which contained information that has not been proven to be factually related to police brutality cases.
“We want Embrace to support all victims and are concerned that the actions by the executive director could be seen as creating an environment that does not welcome everyone,” Frolik added. “Barron County entered into a working relationship with Embrace because of the good work they demonstrated supporting survivors of domestic and sexual violence.”
Bement told the online news service that she and her organization had received no prior notice that the executive committee was considering a cutoff of funding, and asked that Barron County authorities communicate with her organization to explain their decision.
Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said Tuesday, Oct. 13, that while the county will no longer offer financial support to Embrace, it will continue to use its services.
“We are still using Embrace (but) we will not be partnering with them on any new projects, as we don’t feel the environment they created could be welcoming for all victims,” Fitzgerald said.
“We also do not feel that they are supportive of law enforcement,” he added. “While we are looking for an alternative source, victim services will not be impacted.”