I wrote this weekend about the Madison, Wisconsin policeman who appeared in front of the protesters in the Capitol rotunda, while wearing police insignia, and announced that he would side with the protesters against the Governor, and how other policemen announced that they would not obey the legislature if the order came to remove protesters from the building.
Now this insurrection gets even worse, as pulled his deputies from guarding the Capitol:
Frustrated by a lack of explanation for the clamping down of access to the Capitol building, Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney said his deputies yesterday were pulled from a duty to keep people from entering the Capitol.
“Over the last two days we have placed those law enforcement officers in the position of being palace guards,” Mahoney said.
Mahoney said an entire day went by yesterday before the Department of Administration offered a reason for locking doors to the building. The public has only been allowed into the Capitol through the King Street entrance since yesterday.
Mahoney said his officers have been at the Capitol to ensure public safety and for people on both sides to have freedom of speech and Assembly, not to restrict those rights. He said he’s “never been prouder than these past two weeks” of his officers.
Mahoney said he believes law enforcement and public safety is being jeopardized by the restrictions.
“I am confident having talked with our staff on the Capitol grounds that we still have a peaceful demonstration. But it’s crucial that individuals have a voice and access to their lawmakers,” Mahoney said.
The deputies had been told that the doors would be open at 8 a.m. yesterday, but that didn’t happen and the officers didn’t find out why until the afternoon, Mahoney said.
“When asked to stand guard at the doors that duty was turned over to the Wisconsin State Patrol because our deputies would not stand and be palace guards,” Mahoney said. “I refused to put deputy sheriffs in a position to be palace guards.”
It is unclear whether Mahoney’s refusal to have his deputies act as “palace guards” contributed to the incident yesterday when a Republican state Senator was cornered by a crowd of protesters as the attempted to enter the building, until a Democratic legislator intervened and held back the crowd until help arrived.
Mahoney’s explanation that he removed his deputies from the Capitol in order to maintain peace is non-sensical. It was not Mahoney’s call to make. It is clear from Mahoney’s use of the phrase “palace guard” that this was a political move in which he disagreed with the Department of Administration as to how many points of access there would be to the building.
While some have sought to justify the actions because there was a court order perserving access to the building, Mahoneys statement made clear that access was not being denied, it simply was being channelled through a single entrance. And even if there were a violation of a court order, the remedy was not police self-help, but going back to the Judge.
Mahoney is an elected official, so he can’t be fired. But it is just another indication of the dangers of police
unions acting as their own authority on polical grounds.
[Note: The last sentence was changed to reflect that it is unclear if Mahoney was acting out of police union sympathy, as were the policemen over the weekend, or only out of political sympathy.]
Update 3-3-2011: Dane County (Wisconsin) Sheriff Dave Mahoney E-Mails Me, wherein Sheriff Mahoney clarifies that he pulled his deputies only from “locked doors” not from other policing duties at the Capitol.
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