Some Wisconsin media away from the scene are underplaying a story unfolding in Madison that is not merely a local matter there because it involves fundamental public policies and issues, including the operation of the State Capitol, exercise of First Amendment rights and probable outflow of taxpayer dollars as a result of questionable law enforcement tactics.
In a nutshell: The Walker administration, reacting to rightist and talk radio criticism that law enforcement had not been tough enough during Act 10 protests and continuing demonstrations, installed Dave Erwin, one of Walker's former security detail officials as the new Capitol Police chief - - and the new chief is having people ticketed for having held up a signs as small as a single sheet of loose leaf paper.
Erwin even counseled capitol employees who felt harassed by protesters to hit them - - a strange strategy from law enforcement leadership who are supposed to be in charge of maintaining the peace and enforcing the law in an atmosphere already stressed:
Erwin recently met with legislative aides who were feeling threatened or intimidated by protesters who have come into the aides' offices to berate them and have followed them to their cars. He suggested they try filming a demonstrator and, if that didn't work, punching the person with their free hand.
"I said if it wasn't working you could try to hit them," Erwin said.Walker likes to play the tough guy - - remember his remark to the fake David Koch during the infamous 2011 prank call that he kept a baseball bat in his office - - but the new chief's actions are going to end up costing the state lawsuit settlements, or worse, getting someone hurt.
Time to replace ideology with smart policing and respect for the Constitution.