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The Daily
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1959: A bad year for Madison cops
Bruce Weatherly (right), from his swearing in ceremony in 1948.
Bruce Weatherly (right), from his swearing in ceremony in 1948.
Credit:WHS image 33757

At around 11 p.m. on Jan. 8, 1959, Madison Police Chief Bruce Weatherly rammed a tanker truck at the intersection of East Washington Avenue and Stoughton Road.

The chief, it so happened, was stinking drunk. He'd been drinking all day, pounding back old-fashioneds with his secretary at the Hoffman House. It was when he tried to drive her home that he had his life-altering accident, suffering multiple shoulder fractures and a concussion.

On Feb. 26, after a special aldermanic inquest, the Common Council voted 17-3 to charge the chief with five counts of misconduct, including drinking on duty and suppression of evidence.

Mayor Ivan Nestingen personally filed the formal complaint with the Police and Fire Commission, whose members included future federal judge James E. Doyle Sr. On April 13, after a one-week hearing, the PFC voted 4-1 to fire Weatherly, effective immediately. (He was later replaced by Madison native Wilbur Emery, 37, a former Marine who led the police force through the 1960s.)

On July 2, technicians confirmed longstanding rumors when they ripped out an extensive series of microphones and recording devices Weatherly had secretly installed throughout police headquarters. The former chief had bugged 17 rooms, including the conference room used by the PFC when it deliberated his ouster.

Stu Levitan is a radio host, labor arbitrator and author of Madison: The Illustrated Sesquicentennial History, Vol. 1 (UW Press, 2006).

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