Cheri Maples, a dharma teacher who was once a Madison police officer, spoke critically of the MPD but advocated the community move forward compassionately in their quest for justice in the death of Paul Heenan.
A former Madison police captain says she is confident that Officer Stephen Heimsness, who shot and killed Paul Heenan during a burglary-in-progress call Nov. 9, did not comply with the standards that were in place when she served as captain of personnel and training from 2000 to 2005.
Cheri Maples, who is now a dharma teacher, was particularly critical of Heimsness' decision to draw his firearm -- rather than a less dangerous weapon -- when arriving on the scene, saying it only created a precarious situation.
She says the department needs to review its use of deadly force.
"If that protocol has now changed in ways that I don't understand and that now permits the use of deadly force in that situation, the community is saying it wants the training changed again," Maples told a crowd of about 100 at Bethany Evangelical Free Church Monday night during an hour-long speech.
At a community meeting last Tuesday, law enforcement officials said it was acceptable for Heimsness to unholster his gun due to the nature of the call he was responding to.
Also at that meeting, Police Chief Noble Wray said the department was in the process of reviewing certain policies relevant to Heimsness' actions that night. Although Wray mentioned that review process is standard in the aftermath of a "major incident," Maples said she is optimistic change will come in that regard.
"I believe Noble's heart is in the right place," she later said, during a question-and-answer period. "I believe he can lead us back from this."
With the sleeves of her purple sweater rolled up to her elbows, Maples almost never broke her two-handed grip on the lectern as she calmly outlined the steps police could take to reestablish trust with the public in the wake of the officer-involved shooting.
Maples, a student of Zen Master Thich Nhaht Hanh, asked that Heimsness (now under investigation for three other incidents) not return to the Madison streets, and also pushed the community to be as compassionate as possible as it continued to seek justice for Heenan, who died at the age of 30.
Maples said the department first needs to reassure the public about Heimsness. A petition calling for the end of Heimsness' police career in Madison has gathered 89,000 signatures, and on Monday, Maples said it was "not an unreasonable request."
She also said the department needs to review its process for determining which complaints against an officer can be sustained, a reference to an incident in Heimsness' past. In 2006, Heimsness drew an excessive-use-of-force claim during an arrest that was "not sustained" and came to light only because the city of Madison paid a $27,000 settlement to the victim in the incident.
Over the past month, concerned citizens have publicly aired grievances with the police department, but Maples' talk offered a slight change in dialogue with her urge to be compassionate to all parties involved.
Several members of the audience seemed somewhat receptive to the idea. Of the 11 citizens who took to the microphone during a question-and-answer period, four focused their question or statement around the idea of compassion. Towards the end of the night, however, Maples acknowledged it may be too soon for some to adopt such empathy.
"There's too much grief in this room and grief needs to be respected," she said. But, she added, people could "begin with the intention not to bring further harm and to develop patience."