Look, if there's one thing we don't need in American politics today it's more incivility. So somebody on this side of the debate should say it: The protestor who dumped beer on Rep. Robin Vos at a downtown Madison bar shouldn't have done so. It was rude, wrong and unhelpful to the cause. If I were still mayor I'd call up Rep. Vos and apologize on behalf of the city and on behalf of the tens of thousands of peaceful protesters I count myself among.
That should be the end of it, but it probably won't be. Rep. Steve Nass, not noted for missing an opportunity to take an isolated incident in Madison and use it to accuse our city of being the root of all evil in Wisconsin, issued a breathless press release blaming the brewhaha on lax local law enforcement and singling out Chief Noble Wray in the process.
This is simply beyond ridiculous.
I worked with Noble Wray for eight years. It was a rare week when I didn't talk with him a couple of times, and we were in very frequent contact during the protests last winter and spring. Not once in all that time did Chief Wray ever reveal a political sentiment one way or the other. To this day I couldn't tell you what the chief's political ideology is or if he even has one. And over what I think the chief would agree was among the best working relationships ever between a mayor's office and the Madison Police Department, the only times he and I had a serious disagreement was over my attempt to exert what I thought was legitimate civilian control over his department, while he believed he was defending it against political interference. Chief Noble Wray steadfastly keeps politics out of his department.
Moreover, the MPD is hands down the best law enforcement agency in the country. It is highly competitive to become a Madison police officer, allowing the chief to choose from the best candidates. Our training program is the best anywhere, as incoming officers are taught how to defuse situations before they get out of hand, how to combine firmness with compassion, and how to keep the peace and respect civil liberties at the same time. I felt so strongly about the need to continue to train our officers in this way that I put millions of dollars behind a new police training facility to be completed this year.
So, for Steve Nass to take an uninformed pot shot at our Madison police leadership is just insulting. It would be wrong, not to mention a waste of good beer, to literally dump one on Nass. But let me do that metaphorically. Here's a bar towel, Rep. Nass.