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Cops Told to Stand Down as Madison Burned

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

MADISON — While downtown Madison was being destroyed by rioters, looters and anarchists last week, cops on the front lines were ordered to “release the criminals” by pandering police and political leaders, front line officers say.


Paula Fitzsimmons, creator of the blog We Support Madison Police spoke to rank-and-file police officers who shared horrifying stories about police command’s orders to stand down during some of the most violent moments of last week’s protests. She detailed their accounts in a blog post.

Some officers also spoke to Empower Wisconsin, expressing their aggravation about the lack of support from police and city leaders, many of whom have degraded the police force while kowtowing to radical left activists.

In one incident, a group of suspects defaced the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial near the State Capitol. It marked the second time in less than three years the monument to the hundreds of law enforcers killed in the line of duty had been vandalized. 

Police officers who spoke to Fitzsimmons said commanders ordered them to not intervene, even though the crime was happening right before their eyes. The officers pursued the suspects after they left the area. They asked again for permission from command staff to make arrests. 

“This request was denied, and we were ordered to release the criminals,” one officer told Fitzsimmons. 

One officer said police leadership was concerned that police doing their jobs would “trigger rioters.” 

“Our command post then passed down the order that we would not be making any arrests at all, even of suspects that were able to be taken out of the area,” the officer said. 


And perhaps this is the most disturbing detail. 

“We later spotted a suspect from a robbery/sexual assault case whose information had been disseminated earlier, so there was probable cause to arrest that person,” the officer said. 

Commanders again denied the officers’ request to arrest. 

“Even after units followed him out of the area, the command post denied our requests to take him into custody because they didn’t want the news to get back to (a known area police critic). This person literally has as much sway over the police department as the mayor,” the officer said. 

If the account is true, asking officers to stand down in the arrest of a suspected sexual predator is criminal dereliction of duty from police department commanders apparently held hostage by political fear. It is tantamount to defunding or eliminating police departments, the insane demand by the same radical leftists leading many of the protests — and the liberal city leaders coddling the purveyors of such irrationality. 

In another incident, police watched as “Molotov cocktails were assembled on the Capitol Square.” 

“We have PD members and the SWAT team right down the street begging to intervene,” the officer said. Again, they were told to stand down. 


Kelly Powers, president of the Madison Professional Police Officers Association, said he’s not aware of some of the incidents Fitzsimmons described, but he acknowledges there are “a lot of frustrated cops right now.” He said law enforcement have monitored criminal activity closely and have made follow-up arrests later. 

The department is in a damned if they do, damned if they don’t position right now. It’s walking a collapsing thin line between keeping order and escalating the violence from “peaceful protesters. All the while, they’re battling a false narrative that all cops are racist and abusive. 

One officer told Empower Wisconsin that it puts police in a position of “pandering,” or at least forcing them to do the pandering of liberal politicians. 

Powers said he understands the concerns of some of the government leaders, whether they’re local, state or federal officials. 

“Once you become the one who speaks contrary to what the narrative is right now, you wind up being concerned about who is going to show up at your doorstep,” the police union leader said. “It’s frustrating to us, There comes a point in time to stand up for things, and rightfully so. But this is not going to get resolved with hashtags. It’s going to get resolved by people speaking up broadly and consistently” for law and order.  


Many of Madison’s finest have logged long hours during the demonstrations ostensibly against police violence. One police officer told Empower Wisconsin he’s been “burning the candle at both ends” for days, with some cops working 16 or 18 hours. They have been screamed at, spit on, and made the object of scorn in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a middle-aged black man, at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. During the worst flareups, rioters and looters swarmed downtown Madison and damaged or destroyed scores of businesses, assaulted innocent bystanders, and set on fire a squad car. 

“They are exhausted. Their bodies are broken and their spirits are broken,” Fitzsimmons told Empower Wisconsin Sunday. 

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