New Capitol police chief will crack down on protesters

Erwin wants to make building safe
New Capitol police chief will crack down on protesters

The state Capitol’s new police chief said he’s going to crack down on protesters who don’t follow the building’s rules.

Capitol Police Chief David Erwin told The Associated Press he has reached an agreement with Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne calling for the state Justice Department to handle civil citations and Ozanne to take any criminal complaints.

Capitol police have issued scores of citations in the 18 months since protesters occupied the Capitol to demonstrate against Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to curtail public unions’ power. Ozanne has dismissed the lion’s share of the citations, however, and a group of protesters still sing in the Capitol rotunda every day.

Erwin said he respects people’s rights to protest but wants to make the Capitol a safe place to conduct state business.

Erwin has been on the job just more than a month, and he said he looks forward to returning the Capitol to a sense of “normalcy.”

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Most recently, Erwin was with the Wisconsin State Patrol, leading security for former Gov. Jim Doyle and current Gov. Scott Walker. He said those experiences, as well as his past experience in the military, make him right for the job. But, he admitted that it’s not going to be easy.

“It is a challenge,” Erwin said. “I support everyone’s First Amendment rights to do freedom of speech, but we have to look at some of the things that are happening here and how people are presenting this First Amendment.”

Without going into too much detail, Erwin talked about moving forward, saying “disruptions” have become a big issue.

He recounted an example on his second day of work when he witnessed a grandmother having to escort her scared granddaughter out of the Capitol because of one person screaming inside the building for “no apparent reason.” He said disruptive instances like those need to stop.

“There’s a core group that’s pushing every button that’s there to push, and so we have to figure out how to address those issues and concerns,” Erwin said. “I’m looking forward to returning the state Capitol to some normalcy, to what we know is normal; that would be exciting. I think the people that work here would enjoy that. I think the people that visit the Capitol would enjoy that. We all have to share this building, and that’s why we’re here, and that’s what we want to do, and it’s my job to make sure we do that safely.”

Erwin said he wants to send a clear message that some of the behavior that’s happening — cases of harassment, name calling and stalking — is not going to be tolerated. 

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