by Benjamin Yount
Nearly every single sheriff in the state of Wisconsin, along with the state’s police officers’ association, and the chiefs of police in Dane County are united in their opposition to a plan that would all but ban tear gas and pepper spray in the city of Madison.
Madison’s city council is set to vote on a proposed ordinance that would limit the use of tear gas, pepper spray, or other crowd control to only “circumstances in which urgent and imminent physical harm to the public or law enforcement officers is threatened or when significant property damage exists and escalation of property damage is threatened.”
Fond du Lac County District Attorney, and Republican candidate for Attorney General Eric Toney on Monday said the proposal will put more lives at risk.
“[It] makes people who want to peacefully protest less safe. It makes people who live here in Madison less safe,” Toney said at a news conference in Madison.
The Badger State Sheriffs’ Association, which represents all 72 sheriffs in the state, wrote a letter to Madison leaders urging them not to approve the new tear gas rules.
“If this ordinance were implemented, sheriffs would not send personnel to assist [Madison],” the letter states.
It was a response similar to one drafted by the police chiefs of Dane County.
The chief’s association said in its letter that Madison’s rules would “severely and adversely impact the ability of other law enforcement agencies to respond to mutual aid requests,” the chiefs’ association’s James Olson wrote.
“Can you imagine violent protests occurring in Madison with no source of support for Madison Police, and the protesters involved knowing your officers’ response capabilities and restrictions in advance?” the chiefs’ letter added. “This misguided [ordinance] would not only endanger the lives of any law enforcement professionals who was on the scene, but would also endanger the lives of innocent civilians.”
Alderwoman Juliana Bennet is driving the near-total ban on tear gas for Madison Police.
She told the UW-Madison student newspaper earlier this month that she decided to push for the change after being pepper sprayed during Madison’s violent protests during the summer of 2020.
“That experience had a big impact on the way I see policing and I think the way many others view policing,” Bennett said. “The Madison Police Department continuously says that it’s here to protect and serve people before property, and yet, their abuse of chemical weapons says otherwise.”
Madison’s council is set to vote on the proposal Tuesday night.
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