UPDATED:Police Unions’ Statement Regarding Recent Enforcement Action During Crackdown on Free Speech at the Wisconsin Capitol

In recent weeks law enforcement efforts in the Wisconsin Capitol have resulted in numerous arrests and citations, as newly appointed Police Chief David Erwin brings a different approach to enforcing possible violations of statutes and administrative code violations. Last Friday, a disabled veteran’s medical crisis during an attempted arrest for a brief spontaneous speech brought widespread scrutiny to Capitol police law enforcement activities. Yesterday the Madison Professional Police Officers Association and the Dane County Deputy Sheriffs Association weighed in:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Date: September 18, 2012

Contact: Brian Austin, MPPOA (608) 347-2773

David McClurg, Vice President, MPPOA (608) 577-2074

Police Unions’ Statement Regarding Recent Enforcement Action at the Capitol
The Madison Professional Police Officers Association and Dane County Deputy Sheriffs Association today release the following joint statement:

In February of 2011, tens of thousands of Wisconsinites travelled to our state Capitol in order to have their voices heard. It was truly a remarkable time in Wisconsin’s history, where people from all sides of a political issue came together in one place to peacefully demonstrate. There was an exceptional relationship between the protesters and on-duty law enforcement officers during this time, and Madison saw none of the strife or violence that has touched other protest movements nationwide.

The on-duty officers acted in a truly exemplary manner during the 2011 protests. They were professional and courteous, and performed their duties impartially in order to protect the free speech rights of all parties involved. These officers, from countless jurisdictions across Wisconsin, set an example for the world to follow regarding the role of the police during peaceful citizen protests. Part of the reason they were able to accomplish this was that the leaders of these agencies were extremely sensitive to the free speech rights of all participants, and as such, did not place their officers in positions that would infringe upon those rights.

It is within this context that we have been watching with alarm the recent developments at the Wisconsin State Capitol. In recent weeks, the Department of Administration (DOA) and the leadership within the Capitol Police have commenced enforcement action against peaceful protesters coming to the Capitol. Officers have been ordered to arrest and cite protesters whose only offense is the silent carrying of a sign. Other protesters have been cited for gathering for the “Solidarity Sing-along,” a non-violent group of citizens who sing every day over the noon hour. The Solidarity Singers have been particularly cognizant of the needs of other groups who also want to utilize the Capitol, and frequently relocate outside the Capitol to be respectful of those needs. They are now being cited for assembly at the Capitol without a permit.

The right to free speech and the right to peaceful assembly are two of the fundamental rights upon which our democracy is based. Since the birth of our nation, the courts have taken great pains to protect these rights vigorously, and view any infringement upon these rights with great skepticism. We believe the recent enforcement action at the Capitol clearly violates these rights in a way that should be unacceptable in a free society.

To be perfectly clear, our grievance is not with the officers of the Capitol Police. These officers have performed admirably for over a year and a half under very trying circumstances. We believe that the recent policy change at the Capitol presents a substantial safety risk to the officers who are tasked with its implementation. Simply stated, these officers are being forced into emotionally-charged confrontations that are neither necessary nor advisable.

The Capitol Police officers are also the only participants in this situation who stand to lose their livelihood and ability to support their families. These officers are particularly vulnerable due to the fact that they lost their collective bargaining rights with countless other public employees under Act 10. This statement is as much a statement in support of these officers as it is a statement condemning the policies of the DOA and the leadership of the Capitol Police. These officers are being placed in an impossible position.

We are asking the Department of Administration, the leadership of the Capitol Police, and the Governor’s Office to respect the core values and freedoms upon which this great state and nation were founded, and cease their infringement upon these freedoms. Wisconsin has a rich tradition of open government and free expression of ideas, and we ask that these individuals uphold this tradition in a manner worthy of their positions of public trust. If the current trajectory of these policies continues, we do not believe that history will judge the leaders of this state kindly with respect to the free speech rights of its citizens.

A sign displayed at Solidarity Sing Along on “Read the Constitution Day” September 17, 2012. Photo by Lisa Wells.

Capitol police Chief David Erwin issued a carefully worded response to the statement from MPPOA and DCDSA on September 19, 2012, where he stated:

“Last year was an unprecedented time in our state’s history and the officers of these departments assisted Capitol Police in keeping the environment safe for everyone involved. We know that the officers understand that the crowds are no longer in the thousands, but a small group who we continue to work with to follow the process to reserve space for their protests.”

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7 Comments on “UPDATED:Police Unions’ Statement Regarding Recent Enforcement Action During Crackdown on Free Speech at the Wisconsin Capitol”

  1. Ann Thorstad-Capadona September 19, 2012 at 4:14 pm #

    He is a paid bully and a puppet for Walker. He is out of control and breaking the law himself. He is also a jackass.

  2. WTF Reader September 19, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    What the hell does that statement from Erwin even *mean*?

    • David Groh August 30, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

      good question

    • Bonnie Michaelis August 30, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

      Everyone involved with this administration has a way of making statements that have no meaning…..starting with the Governor. “it wasn’t actually about jobs.”

  3. Kat Miller August 30, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

    20 pages of rules go along with that permit , rules that are arbitrary, can be used vindictively and can lead to the financial ruin of the person who gets the permit.

    We are dealing with an administration, that has Karl Rove proteges in it. With people who have nursed at the teat of ALEC http://www.alecexposed.org They are part of the larger plan to make this a one party country with no rights for those on the bottom. Look at North Carolina, Michigan,Pennsylvania and on and on. The ID schemes and gerrymandering to control the vote and outcomes

    The armed mercenaries in the North woods that according to permiting and Licensing should not have been granted one because they had been prowling the woods for over a year without one, gone for a bit and now back all shiny and legal

    The sooner people see that the wealthy and Banksters with their political lackeys are turning this State into a Banana Republic. the better off we might be

    Note to the political lackeys, it seems fun now to get your way, drunk on power like many of you are during late night votes in the Chambers,( drunk on booze from dinner , are some, during those late nights) but the kind of world you are creating will not be one you will enjoy living in. Plus how many of you have open invitations to the safe rooms, underground bunkers that the wealthy have should we find ourselves in a third world war

    You are helping to create, a horror version of this country. I am praying that should it come to pass that all you old white men live to suffer in it like we all will

    As far as the Capitol Police only following ,orders, well in the photos and and videos you can see some enjoy inflicting pain.

    It is a lose , lose for the officers, can’t quit now, but they are the sacrificial pawns who will lose in Civil court cases, which will bring just about the same end

    Walker has every intention of replacing them with mercenaries as soon as he sees whether he can be president or Governor again, or will he will keep pressing people to do things they never imagined doing, and keep hiring new people who \will enjoy inflicting pain and having the illusion of power over people

    Koch and The American For Prosperity have their ugly, dirty, fingers in promoting Divide and Conquer

    I have always marveled over how a few can inflict so much pain on many. It is a principle of the physical wold I have never understood. But keep seeing,may all the ideas of an evolving consciousness turn out to be true, for so many are suffering now and it seems so many more will be in the near future.

  4. Watcher August 30, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

    Beautifully stated and truthful. Erwin’s response? A small group they continue to “work with”? Throwing innocent photographers to the ground is not working with them. Arresting observers is not working with them. Cuffing everyone for what they say is a building violation is way out of line, but certainly in line with Governor-ordered, bullying behavior. Watch, he’ll blame the cops, not his sick and twisted idea of himself as a “leader”. Ha.

  5. Carrie Manson August 30, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    His statement mean bla bla bla and Bs Bs, I had to have a response but no one said it had to make sense.

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