By Al Stanek
Whitewater Banner volunteer staff
”Spring Splash,” an unofficial event in anticipation of warmer weather and the coming conclusion of the current UW-Whitewater semester, took place without any major incidents according to Whitewater Police Chief Aaron Raap. “Overall, we think it went well,” Raap told ‘The Banner.’ The event involves house parties and bar hopping and because of the preponderance of alcohol has resulted in multiple Whitewater and other police agency interventions.
The Whitewater PD reports that a total of 79 people were cited or arrested over the first weekend of May. ‘Spring Splash” was technically scheduled for Saturday, May 1. The 79 individuals charged generated a total of 124 citations. Of the charges, 99 were city ordinance violations, 20 were traffic violations, four were misdemeanor offenses and one was a potential felony. The most serious allegation, currently charged as a misdemeanor by the Walworth County District Attorney, was filed against Raejion D. Rembert, 21, of Milwaukee. Whitewater police allege that while driving under the influence, Rembert crashed into and damaged Home Lumber’s property, hit and run, and resisted an officer while being apprehended.
Event participants are thought to be primarily UW-W students and friends. Spring Splash has no official connection with UW-W. An organization known as “Wisconsin Red” publicized the early versions of the event in 2013 through 2015 with relatively few problems. In 2016, however, as social media spread word of the event, crowds became large and unmanageable. Problems included public drunkenness, disorderly conduct and large-scale litter.
The high-level of arrests and damage done by participants in 2016 led to the city forming a committee to investigate how to handle future large-scale events. Due to the public concerns and media coverage, Wisconsin Red pulled its formal sponsorship of Spring Splash in 2017. Additional events took place in 2018 and 2019, with less out-of-town participants and generally less problems. The event was not held in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Relatively pleasant weather this year helped to draw thousands for house parties and bar hopping, with one gathering estimated by the police department to have around 600 people. Police Chief Raap told ‘The Banner’ that the turnout was somewhat smaller and more manageable this year than in 2019.
The Whitewater Police Department was supported by officers from the UW-W Police Department, the Wisconsin State Patrol, and the Walworth and Jefferson County sheriff’s departments. Whitewater PD does not disclose the total number of officers on duty through the weekend.
Responding to criticism on social media that his department generates revenue from citations issued over the weekend, Raap said the citations will not recoup what was spent on overtime to keep officers on duty throughout the weekend, which totaled about $14,000 in 2019. “If anyone out there thinks that citations are going to make up for overtime costs, or that that’s my goal, it isn’t,” he said.
One new approach that the department employed this year was the use of three U-Haul rental vans to transport officers around the city. Previously officers had to largely respond to calls on foot due to not having enough squad cars to transport all of the on-duty personnel. The vans were not used in any pursuits or for transporting anyone other than law enforcement.
Overall, Raap stated that he was well satisfied with his officers’ conduct, whom he said made significant efforts to engage with residents and participants in a positive way. The chief said he was pleased with the patience and understanding of his officers throughout the weekend.
“Every year we get a new influx of new young people who are just getting going in life, so they’re going to make mistakes and we have to be patient with them,” he said.