Cops set politics aside at protests
Wisconsin budget protests
JANESVILLE The state will reimburse law enforcement agencies throughout Wisconsin that have sent hundreds of their staff to Madison to control demonstrators and relieve exhausted police, Walworth County Sheriff David Graves said Wednesday.
Graves in a telephone interview from a command post near the Capitol said the state Department of Administration issued memos to sheriff and police administrators that pledged to reimburse law enforcement agencies for the pay, lodging and mileage it cost them to dispatch staff to Madison.
Graves said he had considered not sending any more deputies to Madison because of mounting costs. With the state's commitment to cover the expenses, Graves said he would continue sending staff but likely would limit it to three deputies a day.
The reimbursements will be retroactive to Feb. 18, when the call for help came for Madison.
News of the reimbursement was cheered by Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore.
"It's certainly good news to our department," Moore said. "The burden is shared now throughout the state of Wisconsin and not just the agencies who felt they should help out."
Local officers, many of them union workers, who worked the front lines in Madison said they had put their political beliefs aside to ensure safety at the Capitol.
"That's what makes this a profession," Rock County Sheriff's Capt. Jude Maurer said. "There are a lot of things that happen while you are working that can affect your personal feelings, but you have to maintain your professionalism."
Rock County, Walworth County and Janesville officers have helped patrol the Capitol. Beloit, Evansville, Edgerton and other agencies also have sent people.
Not every agency has figures available, but Moore said it cost his department $7,000 to $9,400 a day to send 10 officers and one supervisor. They worked double shifts three days in a row.
Rock County Sheriff Bob Spoden sent more than twice as many, offering 25 deputies for three days and 10 for two days. He said he wouldn't know the cost until payroll was finished, but he knows his overtime budget is depleting.
"We're not happy about it," Spoden said. "All of our budgets are tight."
Graves said he had sent three to 10 deputies a day to work 12-hour shifts. He said it drained his staff and finances.
Provisions in the budget repair bill that would strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights doesn't impact law enforcement and firefighting unions, putting officers in an unusual position while they patrol protesters who wouldn't be spared.
Maurer said deputies are uncertain about possible future cuts to their pay and benefits. He said command staff isn't protected under the union.
Everyone has political leanings, but they must be put aside while on duty, Maurer said.
"They have a job to do. They were asked to do it, and they did it well," he said.
Maurer, speaking for himself, said he is willing to lose pay or benefits to balance the budget.
"Honestly, giving up a benefit or pay is ultimately better than giving up a job," he said.
Janesville Police Sgt. Charles Aagaard said he didn't want to give his personal opinion on the budget repair bill. He said he saw people he knew marching, but he didn't let it impact his work.
"We've got a job to do," Aagaard said. "When we are up there, we are neutral."
Officers at the Capitol have been monitoring entrances and watching crowds, officials said. Others have helped at the command posts.
In Rock County and Janesville, local patrol has not been reduced; although people have lost days off because of the extra duty, officials said.
Local agencies sent help after Capitol police requested mutual aid. Departments often help one another for major events.
Rock County agencies will continue sending officers to the Capitol this week, although in smaller numbers, officials said. Crowds are diminishing and protesters have been peaceful.
A spokeswoman from the Department of Administration said the number of outside
law enforcement at the Capitol could not be discussed
because of "specific security protocols." But she disclosed that "there are hundreds of law enforcement officials here at the Capitol from around the state."