******************** THIS BLOG HAS MOVED TO WWW.LEGALINSURRECTION.COM ********************

This blog is moving to www.legalinsurrection.com. If you have not been automatically redirected please click on the link.

NEW COMMENTS will NOT be put through and will NOT be transferred to the new website.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

More Police Insurrection In Madison

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 Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney 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.

Related Posts:
Wisconsin Police Union Members Threaten Insurrection
Skewed Sample Data Used In PPP Wisconsin "Do Over" Poll
Deep In His Cave, Paul Krugman Ponders Things He Chooses Not To Know

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube
Visit the Legal Insurrection Shop on CafePress!
Bookmark and Share


  1. "The Wisconsin AFL-CIO released a statement Sunday that said "hundreds might risk peaceful arrest" as police prepare to shutdown the Capitol by 4 p.m.
    The statement quoted Wisconsin Professional Police Association Executive Director Jim Palmer, who said:

    "Law enforcement working at the Capitol has been impressed with how peaceful and courteous everyone has been. As has been reported in the media, the protesters are cleaning up after themselves and have not caused any problems. The fact of that matter is that Wisconsin's law enforcement community opposes Governor Walker's effort to eliminate collective bargaining in this state, and we implore him to not do anything to increase the risk to officers or the public. Security cannot come at the cost of conflict.""

    Can we trust the police in this matter? I am afraid not. So when can we trust the police?

  2. The police are not your friends. And that goes double for police union bosses. They exist to generate revenue with tickets and to draw chalk lines around the bodies. No individual officer or department can be successfully sued for failure to protect you individually. Their job is to go home alive at the end of their shift and collect their pensions after doing enough shifts. Yes they have a tough job. I should know as my older brother took a medical retirement from LAPD after being shot in the line of duty a second time (with 17 years of service). That said, they are not all good guys, and I repeat they are not your friends.

  3. I don't think Mahoney's words or actions make out a particularly strong case for "insurrection." Obviously, he disagrees with the decision to clamp down on access, but it sounds like he thinks that move is riskier from the standpoint of maintaining order than simply keeping all the entrances open. Also, I detect a whiff of resentment on his part for being compelled to use his county staff and payroll to perform a function that arguably ought to be a state responsibility. I'm not saying he's right in these judgments or in asserting his own prerogative in the matter, but it sounds like there may be more to it than, you know, sedition.

  4. Professor, I don't know how Wisconsin law reads, but it seems to me that the Sheriff of Dane County could clearly be viewed as abdicating his oath of office. In my state, if he refused a lawful order, he would be investigated by the Texas Rangers, and if found guilty of not carrying out his responsibilities, he could be removed by executive order.

    It is my understanding that yesterday a Wisconsin judge ruled that the Capitol @ Madison was to remain open during business hours and when there were any hearings taking place. According to the Wisconsin State Capitol website, the Capitol is "open to the public weekdays between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. and weekends and holidays from 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m."

    The state has clearly outline the times when the Capitol is open to the public, and the judge has said "during business hours" and when "hearings were taking place", so the police should be required to clean that rat's nest out at night. Also, I would think that taping signs to the walls of the Capitol could be considered "littering" and those who do could also be removed, along with the litter.

    This is a clear example of why police should not belong to a public sector union. It is clear that Sheriff Mahoney, and his deputies, hold their loyalty to their union, and not to the people of their county.

    The longer this goes on, the more desparate the protesters will become. They are not getting the results they wanted as quickly as they thought they would. The majority of Wisconsinites are going to work, continuing to pay their taxes, trying to figure out a way to take care of their children. Instead of being able to do that, they now have to content with a bunch of bused in petulant children union goons.

    I hope that when this is all over, Governor Walker publishes pictures of the Capitol, telling the citizens of Wisconsin how much it will cost them to clean up after the squatters. Nothing like being slapped with a bill for someone else's actions to let a little reality set in.

  5. Looks like we need neighborhood watch groups to patrol the streets, while armed.

  6. Didn't read the backstory on this, but given the level of demonstrations and vitriol at the Capitol, one could only but conclude that maintaining a single point of entry into a public building is a matter of responsible security-- for all-- for the State legislature and staff, protesters, and for the building itself. Pro-unionists can pretend they're Miss Manners' sweet nieces all they want as they employ the F word, Hitler analogies and intimidation of a Senator, but it only takes one nut with a gun or bomb to do something incendiary and fatal.

    Sworn officers of the law who get to pick and choose their lawful orders make the case for 2A arms-bearing citizens better than any NRA lobby.

  7. Huge mistake on their part. Police and fire have always held a special place in the public imagination and been given special perks to reward their service. I guess if they want to burn all that goodwill up that's up to them but when the public finally has had enough of public unions they will remember which side the police took. If they can't stay above the fray they won't be treated as anything exceptional any longer.

  8. So, rationalizations aside, protection will be withdrawn as long as the elected representatives of the people will not submit to the will of the unions.

    The longer this goes on the more clear it becomes why public employees should never have been allowed to unionize.

  9. If what I've read is right, the creation of the District of Columbia was prompted by government of Pennsylvania failing to provide satisfactory security for Congress during the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783.

  10. Mahoney's background includes Police Union leadership positions.

    This is beginning to shape up as a "Dane County/Madison" VS. "State of Wisconsin Majority-voters" battle. I spend some time in Madison every week. In that County (and the city of Madison), 90++% of the people are State, County, Muni, or UW/other-public-school employees.

    Thus, Mahoney and the Madison Police Chief--another unreconstructed hippie-leftie--think that their position is "popular" with Wisconsin residents.

    It's like living on another planet.

  11. The Legislature should file for a writ of mandamus if the sheriff has a legal obligation to provide security for the capital building.

  12. In Florida there are several law enforcement agencies whose chain of command ends with the governor. Are there no state law enforcement officers in Wisconsin who must follow the governors orders or be fired?

  13. Maybe he can't be fired, but can't he be impeached (or whatever the correct term would be)?

  14. "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."

    An absolutely terrible and dishonorable thing to say. You can't refuse an order because you disagree with it or because you think it is 'below' your station. You can only refuse an order if it was illegal. He's not even trying to make the case the order was illegal.

  15. So the police take sides based on politics. Now no one is guarding the people's government's property. There are other elements within our society who are not party to the current disagreement who would nonetheless love to take advantage of this opportunity to create chaos by say, torching or blowing up the capitol building. Did anyone think of that?

    The decision to exempt police and fire fighters from the governor's plans to scale back union power in government needs to be reconsidered. Our civil service needs to be non-partisan. What ever happened to the Hatch Act?

  16. Absent a specific court order directing him to do something, he only has a general duty to keep the peace. The legislature isn't directly in charge of him, so he might be within his rights. That's not saying he wasn't stupid. IMO he was.

    He proved again how wrong it is for sworn officers to belong to a competing interest - a union. He seems to have about the same level of strategic intelligence as the dimwit wearing the county star in Tuscon. G-d save us from politician sheriffs who aren't men enough to be cops.

  17. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  18. From Wisconsin State Statute:

    17.11 Suspension of district attorney or sheriff. (1) If
    any district attorney or sheriff is arrested for or charged with any
    offense against the laws of this state, or if the governor is credibly
    informed that any district attorney or sheriff is guilty of any
    offense against the laws of this state, or that proceedings are pending before any court or officer involving any criminal charge
    against any district attorney or sheriff, or that any district attorney
    or sheriff willfully neglects or refuses to perform that district attorney’s or sheriff’s duties,
    the governor shall in the case of a felony
    and may in the case of a misdemeanor suspend the district attorney
    or sheriff from office until the charge shall be investigated and
    finally determined. The governor shall, in the case of the district
    attorney, appoint the attorney general or one of the attorney general’s assistants or some competent attorney of the state, and the
    governor shall, in the case of the sheriff, appoint a suitable person,
    to discharge the duties of the affected office during the suspension.

  19. Can't be palace guards, but have no problem with being sporting event guards? In fact, in many cases, insist upon it.

    I don't know specifically Dane county WI, but in many, many locales the local law enforcement insists that they be present at large gatherings, such as college and high school football / basketball games.

  20. Perhaps this is a budget/manpower/juridsdiction battle? I am assuming there is a difference between the State Capital Police and the Dane County Sherriff responsibilities. But, feel free to correct my potential ignorance.

    It appears the Capitol just needs more manpower due to the circumstances. And the Sherrif may find his obligations exceed his ability to meet the demands. Sure, poltical stress has to be a factor as well. He's playing with fire if he crossed any lines though.


  21. More information that may be relevant.


    "Huebsch says he's signed more than 35 agreements with police agencies around the state to help cover the protests. He doesn't know the total number of officers used, but it's ranged from 160 to 400 at peak times."

  22. Call out the national guard.

    "The Wisconsin Constitution designates the governor as the commander-in-chief of the Wisconsin National Guard. The department is directed by the adjutant general, who is appointed by the governor for a -year term and may serve successive terms. The adjutant general must be an officer actively serving in the Army or Air National Guard of Wisconsin who has attained at least the rank of colonel and is fully qualified to hold the rank of major general in either the Army or Air National Guard. The governor also appoints the administrator of Wisconsin Emergency Management."

    The Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs

  23. Here is a retired police officer that seems to agree that the Police are acting out of line.


  24. Everyone left out one thing:


    Enough said.

  25. I fear this entire affair is moving in a direction that may precipitate violence. Clearly, the WI Democratic law makers have abdicated their responsibility and are failing to respect the democratic process. The police are now no longer acting in the best interests of the public, but instead, are acting in their own (political/economic) interests. We also have demonstrators that are getting more and more aggressive by the day.

    Who will be surprised of someone eventually says to themselves:
    a) the law makers aren’t acting in accordance with the law
    b) the police aren’t acting in accordance with the law
    c) the demonstrators are all but violating the law.
    therefore, I will take the law into my own hands.

  26. I would have loved to have been a reporter in the room at the time. I would have asked, just to be straight, "Sheriff Mahoney, whose palace is it that you're refusing to guard?" The answer is, of course, that it is the palace of the people of the state of Wisconsin, the place set for the Legislature to act on the business of the people. If you say you're not willing to guard that, then what's worth guarding?

    This elected official is playing around with the delegitimization of the government he is sworn to defend. It's just another variant of the phony Mubarak attack, as if the capitol is like some lush palace where the corrupt dictator's cronies hang out.

  27. TMLutas:

    I agree with you completely, and I think that would have been an outstanding question.

    One thing I've realized from watching the footage of the protest is that these protestors really dont understand Democracy. Look at how they berate Sen Grothman to 'explain himself.' For some reason I doubt that many of them live in Senator Gothman's District 20, and its really only the to members of District 20 that the Senator is responsible. Trying to convince a Senator from another district that he is beholden to your needs is well... thugery.