Intern Updates: Wausau Policing Project – Olivia Rasmussen

The following is a blog post from Olivia Rasmussen. Rasmussen is a WIPPS research assistant and a recent UW-Madison graduate.

Like many other students in the UW system, I lost my job on campus in the summer of 2020 due to budget cuts caused by COVID. Although there were moments of frustration and hopelessness, as I loved my previous student job, I was motivated to seek out an opportunity to continue working in my areas of interest in public policy and education. I heard about WIPPS through my younger brother working with the Student Journalism Project and thought to apply, as their values and projects really aligned with my passions. A bonus was that my internship in the fall met the requirements for an internship course. I never would have thought that I would be so passionate about a student job, like I was with my previous one. I am so glad I decided to apply for a student position WIPPS.

One silver lining of COVID was that I was able to work with WIPPS and get hands-on experience helping with the Wausau Policing Project. Working as a research assistant has provided me with the opportunity to explore other topics of interest, such as the Wausau Policing Task Force’s focus toward community informed policing. As someone who was born and raised in Wausau, I was curious to see how policy would be changed in response to community feedback and how this would impact Wausau residents, such as my family and close friends. I was also interested in becoming involved with the project because of recent events that have received national attention, like the tragic deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. While working on this project, I was motivated to read up more on policing which led me to choose The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. I highly recommend this book to those who are interested in learning more about how mass incarceration exists and thrives in our new age of colorblindness and touches on how some policing policies disproportionately impact people of color.

Collaborating with the Wausau Policing Project over the past several months has provided me perspective into how much deliberation, discussion, and planning goes into survey design and implementation. I have a newfound respect and appreciation for committees and organizations that work to improve their community through survey feedback, as I greatly underestimated the time and effort this process involves. As I end my work with WIPPS this August, I look forward to seeing how the Wausau community’s perception of the Wausau Police Department impacts how policing is done for the betterment of Wausau’s community members.

Olivia Rasmussen
WIPPS Research Assistant