For a state that according to Gov. Scott Walker is "broke," Wisconsin seems to have a remarkable tolerance for spending vast sums of money on police protection.
At about 5 p.m. today, using a press pass that allowed me access to places no mere citizen can go, I made circular jaunts around all five floors of the building, counting cops.
On the ground floor I counted 92 officers, police and sheriffs deputies. The largest number, about 30, were congregated on the East corridor, which is where the citizens being allowed to enter the building are screened for weapons.
I counted 24 cops on the first floor, 21 on the second, eight on the third and six on the fourth. The fourth floor is where the building's police command center is located. When the Senate Sergeant at Arms entered the room, I saw there were apparently about 15 officers inside. That pushed the total into the building to 166.
All of the cops I encountered were courteous, but they didn't seem to have a lot to do. Most were sitting or standing in Capitol nooks devoid of protesters.
It seemed to me there were about 60 demonstrators in the Rotunda, but these were harder to count because they, unlike the police, were mostly moving around. When I left the building through the east entrance, I counted ten additional officers outside, where the protest presence had largely petered out.
Up on the fourth floor, I ran into Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney, and asked him if this huge presence of officers made sense to him. He was the picture of diplomacy: "What we've seen up to this point has been very peaceful demonstrations. That's all I can say."
He said a bit more: "We're very happy with two weeks and more than one million people coming through the Capitol. … I would hope people in the weeks and months ahead will continue that."
Weeks and months?
Tim Donovan, a spokesperson working with the state Department of Administration, says the level of security -- and number of the protesters -- is about the same today as yesterday. He said the size of the police presence is "discussed and reviewed every day and its at the level the law enforcement officials believe is the right level."
And then, as we spoke, the possibility loomed that what seemed like overkill a moment ago might be too little now. A Dane County judge issued a letter late Thursday afternoon asking protesters to leave the building under regular hours. Normally, the building closes at 6:00.