July 28, 2014

Capitol police chief gets heat from Dems

Dane County Assembly Democrats criticize the new Capitol police chief.

In a letter to Chief David Erwin, Madison area lawmakers are asking for an explanation of what actions are deemed to be unlawful in the Capitol. By not making that clear, they say Erwin appears to be “making things up as he goes along.” Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) has been publicly voicing her concerns. “We have seen, with this new police chief, is he seems to be searching for what code, under the Administrative Code, he is going to arrest people.”

Four demonstrators were cited on Monday for displaying signs, and protesting without permits in the Capitol. Erwin says he’s cracking down on protesters who intimidate workers and visitors to the statehouse. Taylor says the vast majority of people using the building are peaceful and respectful. “For someone who is in charge of keeping the peace and order in this Capitol, I don’t know why it’s so irritating to them — to him and to this Administration — that’s somebody’s standing there with maybe a political message they don’t like. Why is that so irritating? Why is it so irritating to hear somebody sing a song at lunchtime?”

The letter sent to Erwin on Wednesday states Democrats are especially concerned that instead of immediately addressing the behavior of protesters, officers issued tickets to people at their homes and work places several hours after-the-fact. “It is conduct that’s designed to intimindate and harrass people and to dissuade them from coming to the people’s house.”

The Administration says its goal is to avoid confrontations in the Capitol. In a statement Thursday responding to the letter from Democrats, the DOA says, “The Capitol belongs to all the people of Wisconsin — those who want to protest, work and visit our state Capitol. The Capitol Police uphold and support Wisconsin’s constitution and laws, including the right of free speech.

“The Capitol Police have granted thousands of permits to use the building and protest at the Capitol — whether the organization is on the far left or right of the political spectrum. The permit process to use the building has been part of Wisconsin’s Administrative Code since 1979.”

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:40