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‘Wandering’ officers; electrical fires and injustice; biased mortgage algorithms; delta variant in Wisconsin; Waukesha schools refuse expanded meal aid  

Of note: This week we highlight our story revealing that nearly 200 Wisconsin law enforcement officers who lost their jobs in the past five years are back working in law enforcement in the state. That’s out of more than 1,000 officers ousted during that period. 

The Badger Project’s Peter Cameron reported the story for Wisconsin Watch. Cameron obtained data from the state Department of Justice, which tracks officers who have been fired, resigned in lieu of termination or quit before the end of an internal investigation. Experts say rehiring such officers can put the public at risk of additional misconduct. A bipartisan bill before the Legislature would require law enforcement agencies to maintain a personnel file for each employee and disclose that file to any agency that may want to hire them.

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From left, Officers Riley Schmidt, Jacob Ungerer and Ben Dolnick are some of the nearly 200 law enforcement officers currently employed in Wisconsin who have been fired from previous jobs in law enforcement, resigned in lieu of termination or quit before completion of an internal investigation. Photos courtesy of the Darlington Police Department, Middleton Police Department Facebook page and the Dane County Sheriff's Office

Nearly 200 Wisconsin officers back on the job after being fired or forced out

The Badger Project/Wisconsin Watch — August 21, 2021

One officer was accused by a supervisor of snoozing in his squad car while on duty. Another had multiple drunken run-ins with police, including after bar fights. A third repeatedly sent lewd photos to a female officer. All of them were fired or forced out. And all of them are back working in law enforcement in Wisconsin. Nearly 200 law enforcement officers currently employed in the state were fired or forced out from previous jobs in law enforcement, according to data from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, which started tracking that statistic in 2017.

The secret bias hidden in mortgage-approval algorithms

The Markup — August 25, 2021 

Lenders in 2019 were more likely to deny home loans to people of color than to White people with similar financial characteristics — even when we controlled for newly available financial factors that the mortgage industry for years has said would explain racial disparities in lending. In a statistical analysis of more than two million conventional mortgage applications for home purchases, The Markup found that lenders were 40% more likely to turn down Latino applicants for loans, 50% more likely to deny Asian/Pacific Islander applicants, and 70% more likely to deny Native American applicants than similar white applicants. Lenders were 80% more likely to reject Black applicants than similar white applicants. An analysis of regional data in Wisconsin showed that lenders in Madison and the Kenosha metro region rejected similarly qualified Latino applicants at higher rates than whites. 

Related from Wisconsin Watch : Homeownership gap for people of color in Wisconsin is wide; communities, nonprofits try to close it | Read full Color of Money series

Every eligible Wisconsin school district is providing all students free meals this year. Except Waukesha.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — August 25, 2021

At nearly every Wisconsin public school, all students will be able to eat free meals this academic year, same as they did last year under a federally funded program responding to the pandemic. But not in Waukesha. Administrators had opted into the program last year but school board members intervened and hit the brakes this time around. Board member Karin Rajnicek said the free program made it easy for families to “become spoiled.” Darren Clark, assistant superintendent for business services, said he feared there would be a “slow addiction” to the service.

Tiffany McCarver outside the home on North 14th Street where her mother, Patricia Colston, died in a fire. At right is a memory poster board. Ebony Cox / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Electrical fires hit Milwaukee’s Black renters hardest. Nobody is held accountable.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — August 25, 2021

Fires suspected to be started by faulty electrical wiring scorch homes in Milwaukee’s poorest ZIP code at five times the rate of the rest of the city. The already distressed 53206 ZIP code — and areas surrounding it — are the epicenter for electrical fire danger in the city. Police and fire investigators, as well as federal, state and local officials, do little to stop it, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found. The people affected the most: low-income Black renters. Authorities, by their own admission, routinely do not thoroughly investigate electrical fires, marking their causes as “undetermined” and, in the process, denying families closure and legal recourse and leaving policymakers in the dark about the problem and how to address it.

As the delta variant surges, here’s what we know about the risk at Wisconsin’s COVID hotspots like prisons, nursing homes, schools and more

USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin — August 25, 2021

For a brief, glorious few weeks, it seemed to many that the worst of the pandemic was behind us. Half of Wisconsin residents are fully vaccinated. Beloved festivals and sporting events, forced into hiatus last year, are making a triumphant return, with hundreds of thousands of attendees in tow. In late June and early July, many counties recorded averages of very few — sometimes zero — new coronavirus cases per day. Hospitalizations from the virus were down and deaths plummeted. But signs of what could come our way were already emerging in the southern U.S., where states with large unvaccinated populations suddenly had overflowing hospitals and some of the highest case counts they’d ever seen.

Related from WPR: UW System refuses to submit COVID-19 safety restrictions for Republican approval

The byline "Wisconsin Watch" represents members of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism's editorial and public engagement and marketing staff.