I recently received a letter from an Alert Reader who was concerned about remarks made by former Alder Chad Speight at the June 24 meeting of the city’s Public Safety Committee.
(My correspondent, who prefers to remain anonymous, was at the meeting. Unfortunately, it wasn’t recorded or videotaped, but I talked to a couple of other people who were at the meeting and they corroborated Alert Reader’s account.)
The committee was discussing the June 2 incident in which Monona officers, acting on a call from a neighbor, entered a home with guns drawn and handcuffed the unarmed occupant, who was African-American.
Upon determining the occupant had a right to be in the residence, the police apologized, but now the city, like other municipalities, is engaged in a vigorous search for signs of racism in the police department.
According to Alert Reader, at the Public Safety Committee meeting, Speight said, “I am tremendously offended and upset and embarrassed by what happened in our city three weeks ago …
“I’m sorry to say, what we saw in that (police body cam) video was an occupation of a private residence by our police without the permission of the owner or the renter and guns were pointed at someone who had done nothing …
“We’ve got to figure out how something so perverse has become acceptable … we are fighting a war while we are ignoring so many other basic human needs and yet we live in a city with practically no violent crime and even the city of Madison is remarkably peaceful …”
Alert Reader says Speight suggested police should never enter a home without the permission of the owner or the occupant.
Speight “needs a proper education in the dangers officers face each and every day,” Alert Reader wrote.
“He does not want potential burglaries or home invasions investigated unless the homeowner is available to say, ‘Sure, come on in.’
“Mind you, if it is a home invasion and you are being raped, no worries, police won’t be able to make contact with you and will have to leave, but the hospitals have nice evidence-collection training for that sort of thing.
“The irony for this grossly uninformed man who claims to have had true, vested knowledge of the city from nine years as an alderman, is that the police were at a strong-armed robbery at the AmericInn where a handgun was fired inside the hotel, at the very moment he was declaring Monona has practically no crime!
“My God, please give me some of the smoking materials he has: I greatly need a mental break from how insane the crime has become county-wide,” Alert Reader concluded.
I have to agree with Alert Reader that Speight’s suggestion was completely out to lunch.
A couple of other for-instances in which police can and do and should enter homes without the permission of the homeowner are child abuse and domestic violence.
My first job in newspapers in 1973 was covering the police beat. I would read the incident reports, and remember being stuck by how many times police were called on wife beaters, and how few times anyone was arrested.
In the early ’80s, when Madison’s first battered women’s shelter opened, I wrote a multi-part series on domestic violence for the State Journal.
But it took a Connecticut woman named Tracey Thurman to get police agencies across the country to take domestic violence seriously.
In 1983, Thurman’s estranged husband beat her on multiple occasions, violating a restraining order, yet local police refused to arrest him.
One night he showed up at her home, and she immediately called the police, but no one came for at least 25 minutes – during which time he stabbed her 13 times in the chest, neck and face.
She was lying on the floor in an ocean of blood when officers finally arrived, and her husband was standing over her with a bloody knife, yet the officers still didn’t try to restrain him – so he kicked her in the face.
In fact, he wasn’t taken into custody until she was being carried out on a stretcher. When he tried to attack her on the stretcher, the cops finally acted.
Thurman was paralyzed on her right side and spent seven months in the hospital. Her husband was convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Then Thurman sued the city where she lived, charging that police officers had violated her constitutional right to equal protection. She won a $2.3 million verdict that sent shockwaves nationwide.
States, including Wisconsin, began enacting laws requiring that whenever police are called out on domestic violence cases, someone gets arrested. Sometimes it’s the woman; more often it’s the man. Either way, someone gets removed from the scene.
The new laws also made it easier for prosecutors to try domestic abuse cases without the cooperation of victims, who often change their minds.
Police fear domestic abuse calls more than any other. Passions are running high, weapons may be involved, and there’s often alcohol or drug use to add to the dangerous mix.
I don’t think the “Defund the Police” crowd understands this.
When I read they suggested sending unarmed social workers, mental health professionals or marriage counselors instead of cops to handle domestic violence cases, I snorted out loud.
I suspect Alert Reader would join me.
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