Cesilee Dean knows some folks will say she had it coming. She bared her breasts in public and got ticketed. Boo blanking hoo.
But while Dean does plan to fight her citation in court, this is not why she's complaining. She's upset because, of the thousands of people who saw her that day, "a police officer was the only one who violated me."
On June 19 Dean, 27, took part in the World Naked Bike Ride in Madison. Dozens of these pro-bike, pro-body events have been held in cities throughout the world, without incident. But in schoolmarmy Madison it drew a vigorous police response, including 10 $429 disorderly conduct citations (see online story, 6/28/10).
Dean, a waitress in downtown Madison, says organizers stated that police would not hassle bicyclists whose breasts and nipples were obscured by body paint, as hers were. (Ald. Mike Verveer says a police official made a similar statement to a city committee days before the event.) Dean also believed her underwear had her covered, pun intended, when police warned participants that anyone displaying genitalia risked fines: "I was in full compliance."
And then, she relates, she felt a sudden jolt as an officer grabbed her handlebars and "forcefully yanked" her off the bike and hauled her to his squad. Dean's boyfriend, Jason Shaw, says he told the officer, Rene Gonzalez, to stop being so aggressive, as Dean was not resisting, whereupon he was threatened with arrest.
Dean and Shaw made these claims in a formal complaint against Gonzalez last week. Event participant Mackenzie Dunn, who didn't know the couple, submitted a witness statement saying "the overtly forceful apprehension of a calm, peaceful protester who was not involved in any sort of violence or aggression...was very disturbing."
But it's what happened afterward that most bothers Dean and Shaw. Both say they appealed to Officer Gonzalez to let Dean put on her T-shirt as she sat in the back of his squad car. They say he took the shirt and threw it into the front seat of the vehicle, then stood by an open back door, questioning her. When Dean asked for her shirt, she says he replied, "You want it on now?"
Dean reports being offended and frightened by Gonzalez's conduct. Shaw, a bartender and lead singer in a local band who has a booming voice, says he kept shouting at the officer to let Dean have her shirt, checking his watch as these entreaties were ignored for more than four minutes. Eventually, Dean states in her complaint, "Officer Gonzalez grabbed the shirt from the front seat and threw it at me, hitting me in the face."
So, yes, Cesilee Dean voluntarily took part in what she thought would be a fun public protest against car dependency that involved some degree of exposure. Doesn't that mean she also agreed to be ogled by a male cop while pleading for a shirt a few inches away?
No, says Dean, who explains it like this: When she joined the event, she was voluntarily part of a group; when she was dragged into Gonzalez's squad, "I was put in a situation where I wasn't in control anymore" - and hence entitled to make a different choice about attire. She notes the irony of being busted for being bare-chested, then forbidden to cover herself.
Gonzalez did not respond to messages seeking his perspective. Lt. Linda Kosovac, the Madison Police Department's head of professional standards and internal affairs, reviewed Dean's complaint and decided not to investigate until the disorderly conduct citation is resolved. She says people often file complaints as a way to get out of tickets.
Dean insists that is not the case here. She wants Gonzalez disciplined for "abus[ing] his power as an officer of the law by intimidating, controlling and disrespecting me." (The actual MPD rule - 204 - is against "overbearing, oppressive or tyrannical conduct.")
Both Dean and Shaw say their initial contacts with police suggest the department is unlikely to take their complaint seriously. But they've enlisted a powerful ally.
Local attorney Dan Bach, formerly the deputy attorney general for the state of Wisconsin, may represent Dean in contesting her citation and a "potential" civil suit.
"Based on the witness reports I have seen, this was an overreaction by a police officer to a peaceful protest," he says. "She was forcefully removed from a bicycle and thereafter was not treated appropriately while she was in the officer's custody."
Dean's initial court date is July 21.
Feds throw monkey wrench into UW expansion plans
President Barack Obama has not been as good to the UW-Madison as some had hoped. The university's request for stimulus funding to dramatically increase the size of its primate research facilities has been denied.
"They took a shot at stimulus funding, and the grant was not funded," says UW spokesman Chris Barncard.
The UW-Madison sought $15 million in Recovery Act funding from the National Institutes of Health to significantly expand its National Primate Research Center. The NIH reviewed the request and last fall assigned it a score outside of the probable funding parameters. The UW did not call attention to this missed opportunity, which came to light only because others are now getting funding from this pot.
Currently the UW houses about 1,900 monkeys, including 1,400 at the primate center, one of eight in the nation. A summary of the NIH's review (PDF) provided to Isthmus says the project would have added 34 animal housing rooms and "expanded the main rhesus monkey colony by 50%." And it would have allowed the transfer of the approximately 500 monkeys from the aging Harlow Primate laboratory to the new facility, bringing its total capacity to about 2,500.
The review concluded that the project had "many strengths and a few weaknesses." Among the weaknesses: that it would benefit only a small group of researchers and that "there is a lack of evidence that this project will provide as many jobs as stated or promote sustainability." Also on this point: "There is no mention of any sustainable features (recycled content, Energy Star features)."
Buddy Capuano, the primate center's head veterinarian, says the UW must at some point address the infrastructure needs that prompted its request. "But there is no funding mechanism right now that would get anywhere near that amount of money."
By the way, he says, the UW's application included a section on sustainable features: "They just didn't read it well."
Little old lady updates
Sally Franz, the 82-year-old town of Oregon resident threatened with foreclosure by Dane County Treasurer Dave Worzala (Watchdog, 5/28/10), is apparently going to be able to keep her home.
That's not because Worzala had a change of heart or agreed to accept less than the $899 in back taxes she owed, including penalties and interest, over her refusal to pay an accidental overcharge (corrected with a subsequent tax break). It's because Franz has what she calls "very supportive kids and friends" who took it upon themselves to settle the debt. "I do not approve," she says. "This is letting him get away with it."
Worzala confirms that Franz's delinquent tax was paid on June 29. Earlier, he had given Franz until late July before taking steps to foreclose on her home.
Meanwhile, Marian Pehowski, the 85-year-old Madison woman whose house insurance was dropped by American Family after she filed two claims in a year for ice damage and a minor theft (Watchdog, 6/10/10), has secured comparable insurance from another company, Liberty Mutual, for slightly less than she'd been paying.
"It's certainly been an experience," says Pehowski, who's heard from others who've had their coverage terminated because they've happened to need it. "I think all of the insurance companies are trying to get rid of anybody who doesn't mean an instant profit."
On June 8, American Family defended its decision in a letter to Pehowski: "Our premium rate is based on an expected average loss frequency. On the average, a typical homeowner policy such as yours incurs one claim every 12 years. Anything over that is cause for concern."
Too bad that's not something customers are told before they procure policies.