Madison Police Chief Noble Wray said he wants some answers from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker about a statement the governor made about considering inserting troublemakers into the group of protesters at the Capitol.
Walker made the statement during a sham phone call in which the caller, posing as conservative billionaire businessman and Walker supporter David Koch, asked Walker if he had thought about the possibility of planting people in the crowd to cause trouble during peaceful protests at the state Capitol during the past two weeks.
The caller, online journalist Ian Murphy, posted audio of the call Wednesday on the website of the Buffalo Beast, a left-leaning New York newspaper.
In response to caller's question, Walker said: "You know, well the -- the only problem -- because we thought about that ? My only fear would be is that, if there was a ruckus caused, is that would scare the public into thinking the governor's got to settle to avoid all these problems. Where I've said, 'We can handle this. This is Madison, full of the '60s liberals. Let 'em protest.'"
Walker's office confirmed Wednesday he was one of the two voices on the phone call.
"It was a public safety risk," Wray said. "Based upon what he was saying, it was suggesting to cause disorderly behavior. That could have led to unrest."
Walker on Wednesday stood by his comments on the call, saying they were no different than what he has said publicly.
Wray said he needs an explanation as to why the governor would even consider causing trouble -- in what has been, so far, a peaceful protest.
"I'm not here to make the governor's job any more difficult," Wray said. "But I think as an ethical leader, I have a responsibility to highlight something that would give him an opportunity to clarify."
Wray released a statement Thursday regarding the governor's remarks during the call.
"I spent a good deal of time overnight thinking about Governor Walker's response, during his news conference (Wednesday), to the suggestion that his administration 'thought about' planting troublemakers among those who are peacefully protesting his bill. I would like to hear more of an explanation from Governor Walker as to what exactly was being considered, and to what degree it was discussed by his cabinet members. I find it very unsettling and troubling that anyone would consider creating safety risks for our citizens and law enforcement officers. Our department works hard dialoging with those who are exercising their First Amendment right, those from both sides of the issue, to make sure we are doing everything we can to ensure they can demonstrate safely. I am concerned that anyone would try to undermine these relationships. I have a responsibility to the community, and to the men and women of this department -- who are working long hours protecting and serving this community -- to find out more about what was being considered by state leaders," Wray said in the statement.
In addition, the Madison Police Department also released a separate statement, praising the preparedness of its officers, saying they are "trained for crowd situations where an agitator or provocateur may try to create safety risks for citizens and officers." The department also commended all protesters for being peaceful during their rallies at the Capitol.
The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board did not comment on the issue Thursday. In a statement, the nonpartisan government watchdog group said it has received many inquiries to investigate possible ethics violations. The GAB said it will investigate where there is a reasonable basis to do so, and, by law, the group said it cannot acknowledge or comment on any ongoing investigations.