The University of Wisconsin Madison Police Department is reviewing its procedures for making contact with students in classrooms, following protests on the campus this week over how officers located a suspect in several recent acts of vandalism on the campus.
A campus police officer entered a classroom last week to make contact with a black student for questioning about several recent incidents involving racial graffiti on the campus. The student then follows the officer out of the classroom and is eventually arrested. UW Police have released videos of the incident.
The student has not currently been charged, but was arrested on 11 criminal counts for graffiti and one count of disorderly conduct, after police say he threatened a bystander who tried to intervene.
The incident sparked complaints because the class was actually underway at the time and hundreds of students protested on Thursday to demand changes in department policies. Protesters also called for the officers involved and several UW officials to resign, and for any possible charges or disciplinary action against the student to be dropped.
Police Chief Sue Riseling has apologized for how the officer entered the classroom, saying that he did not believe class was underway at the time. Riseling said it’s not routine for police to seek out suspects in class, and the decision to do so in this case came after two weeks of trying to track down the individual. She added “We are initiating a review of our officer’s action entering the classroom, and department procedures related to classroom contacts, consistent with our commitment to the academic mission of the university.”
In a statement, Chancellor Rebecca Blank said that she remains committed to “fostering a campus environment where every student can learn, feels safe and valued and is able to thrive,” and noted that the department is already working to review the incident.
However, Blank also noted that “embedded in the student demands are requests for actions that I do not believe are reasonable, or even lawful, for me to take. In fact, several of the demands seek to apply authority that the university does not have under state law or UW System policies and procedures.”