Madison police chief: Extra staffing on standby, ‘ready for anything’ in wake of Rittenhouse verdict

MADISON, Wis. — Madison police chief Shon Barnes said the department has staffing holds and a command post in place to prepare for possible protests in the wake of the jury reaching a verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.

A jury in Kenosha County found Rittenhouse not guilty on all counts in the shooting deaths of two men and the injuring of another during protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake last summer.

RELATED: Kyle Rittenhouse found not guilty on all counts in Kenosha shootings

Chief Barnes said their special events team is on standby, staffing holds are in place, and a command post is ready to manage traffic and any situations that occur. He has also placed calls to community partners to ensure the agency is working in sync with community organizations and will work with outside agencies like Capitol Police as needed.

“There are always going to be things in our society and our virtual world that’s going to shock our conscience, whether one way or the other–whether it makes us believe in government or not believe in government,” Barnes said on Thursday afternoon.

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“When that happens, I think that everyone is afforded the opportunity to go out and protest. It’s in our constitution. I want our community to know that we’re here to help with that, to facilitate that, and to manage that.”

Earlier this week, an independent report released 69 recommendations for improvement for the Madison Police Department in the wake of how they handled weeks of protests following the murder of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake last summer. The report found police were largely unprepared for the scale of the protests.

Today, Chief Barnes said their purpose is to not just protect property but also the safety and lives of those who might choose to protest.

“When police respond in small groups and small numbers to quell people who are being disruptive, what we’re doing with that is that we are protecting the first amendment rights of those persons who want to be here.”