By Rebecca Kemble, Nicole Schulte and Whitney Steffen
On Wednesday, September 12, 2012 Whitney Steffen was given a warning that she was engaging in prohibited behavior in the Wisconsin State Capitol. When she inquired as to the nature of that behavior, the officer giving her the warning could not explain it to her:
Last week, Sergeant Merdler of the Capitol police was asked about arrestable offenses. He too had no answers:
Earlier in the week, when Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) went to the Capitol police station to inquire about the nature of the arrests being made upstairs, but nobody was available to answer her questions either:
Despite multiple attempts over a period of several weeks to contact the public information officer, Stephanie Marquis, to whom all inquires are being directed, WCMC reporters have never received a call back. After WCMC reporter Nicole Schulte happened upon Erwin getting ready for an interview with WMTV channel 15 (see photo), Marquis whisked her away into the building telling her that she should set up her own interview with the Chief. Marquis was not able to schedule it then but promised to call Schulte back. At this writing Schulte has not received that call.
Last week Rep. Taylor invited Capitol Police Chief David Erwin to her office for a meeting so that he could explain to her the specific behaviors that would put her constituents in jeopardy of arrest. Wendy Coomer of the Department of Administration under whose authority the Capitol police falls joined Erwin and Taylor for the meeting. But it was short lived. Erwin and Coomer did not answer any of Rep. Taylor’s questions but instead walked out of the meeting. They said that if people wanted to know if their behaviors required a permit, they should call the Capitol police office.
That’s what one concerned citizen has been doing every day this week. Katy Reeder made a sign with the phone number on it and Erwin and Coomer’s instructions. Each day she announces the official answer to her question of the day on the sign.
Chief Erwin is rarely seen around the Capitol building, and never appears during the noon hour Solidarity Sing Along. He has thus far only given interviews to carefully selected media outlets, some of them rightwing PR outfits like the MacIver Institute and Wisconsin Reporter. Other news organizations must resort to quoting those reports to give their audience any information about Chief Erwin’s strategy.