Stoughton has become the first “no hit zone” city in Dane County. On all city properties and in all city facilities, city staff and others are encouraged to intervene and stop people from striking another person, regardless of their relationship.
The program, adopted by the Common Council at its Aug. 23 meeting, is part of a national movement to end corporal punishment because of what are seen as the detrimental (sometimes life-long) psychological effects of physical violence.
Ald. Mike Engelberger, chair of the Public Safety committee, brought the motion to the council in a resolution proposed by the Dane County District Attorney’s office. The council adopted the idea unanimously.
Stoughton police chief Greg Leck supported the concept and drafted the city’s resolution. Leck told the council the police department is “excited about this program” and said the department would train city staff in effective ways to intervene to stop hitting.
Leck said no-hit zones can be effective in “breaking the cycle of violence.”
“I look at this as an opportunity for Stoughton to take the lead and start the conversation,” Leck said. “We already have laws on the books that deal with violence. This empowers employees to intervene and not be hesitant. This enables people to have a conversation about violence.”
Leck said it’s often a judgment call by law enforcement when corporal punishment rises to the level of a crime. City police decide whether to recommend charges, and the District Attorney’s office determines whether to press charges against someone for striking another individual.
Stoughton resident Amy Brown, director of the Victim Witness Unit in the DA’s office, explained the importance of the no-hit zone idea and said District Attorney Ismael Ozanne embraced it in 2014.
The “Dane County District Attorney’s office in Wisconsin has received national recognition for becoming a No Hit Zone,” according to the website for the national no hit zone movement, which began at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland in 2005.
City officials plan to put up signs declaring city properties a “no hit zone,” similar to no smoking signs.
Ald. Tom Selsor (D-4) expressed the only opposition to the resolution – not because of its goal, which he supported, but because the idea of a zone where hitting isn’t allowed suggests there are other areas where it’s OK, he said.
He voted in favor of the motion, but at the end of the meeting asked the council to reconsider it. He then attempted to remove the “no hit zone” language from the resolution and instead make the entire city a “no hit city.”
Leck and others said they appreciated Selsor’s intent, but most felt his idea would have the effect of undermining the effort because it would be overly broad and thus lose the focus of the program.
“Just having the signage up will start the conversation,” Leck said.
After hearing other opinions, Selsor was persuaded and withdrew his motion to reconsider.