When it comes to public safety, I have continually opted for the course that best meets the needs of keeping society secure and follows the process of law and order. Even before the past 24 hours, or so, I was already a voter who was planning to cast a November vote for Anthony Hamilton as our next Dane County Sheriff. That decision was based on the clear need for more officers to be hired in the department, and what I consider a stodgy hiring strategy at a time when a public desire for safety increases.
Following news reports this week of a search warrant process that was not carried out in a fashion that we must demand from law enforcement, was just additional evidence as to why a change at the top of the Dane County Sheriff’s Department must take place at the ballot box.
Going into this election I have heard and talked with officers who have spoken about the feeling of being stretched thin with overtime and fewer fellow deputies to meet, at times, the needs of the county. That to me is the central and core issue of this race, and the topic that meets the voters at their home or their place of business. The citizenry has a rightful expectation to know that law enforcement is staffed to meet the current array of problems that might require their involvement.
We know this summer that Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett stated the staffing situation is such that the department is short 40 deputies. Though safety reasons were the leading cause for the closing of part of the outdated jail there was also a shortage of staff that aided in making that decision. While arguments can be made about the ways to recruit and hire new deputies, the fact there is such a shortage in the first place is enough concern to drive a voter to make a change in the leadership of the sheriff’s office.
Republican Dane County sheriff’s candidate and detective Anthony Hamilton has sued the Sheriff’s Office in federal court alleging that officials conspired to remove him from the SWAT team for raising concerns about a search at a hotel in March 2021 he considered illegal.
Hamilton’s removal from the SWAT team stemmed from an armed standoff at the Magnuson Grand Hotel in Madison where Hamilton and other law enforcement agents searched a hotel room, the lawsuit said. During the search, Hamilton voiced concerns that the search was probably illegal, the lawsuit said.
Sheriff’s officials later lied in their reports about the incident, with Sgt. Mark Schroeder, who participated in the search, saying that he had ordered Hamilton to obtain a warrant, according to the lawsuit.
Law enforcement at the scene first said they had received permission from the hotel’s manager to search the room because no one had been living there. In an interview on Tuesday, Hamilton said he later learned that the hotel had been renting the room off the books, which technically made the search illegal.
The reason this finds me exercised today is that over and over on this blog I have pressed how the process of governing needs to be transparent, and made clear for those who follow the proceedings, so that win or lose, all can state honestly that the rules were known and applied. The process must not be tainted or altered to get the desired end. From the antics of my local neighborhood association to the pure lunacy of the Donald Trump White House, there is no escaping that process matters. As it was required to do so with the law enforcement matter in which Hamilton was engaged. What we are again witnessing is a fact. When an established process is tossed aside for expediency it makes for harsh consequences.
For the record, I have not met or talked with either of the contenders for the sheriff’s office this fall. But I am aware of the distrust that falls upon the shoulders of the men and women who wear the law enforcement uniform, and how that translates into our politics and social tensions. Dane County simply must have a rational hiring process so a full department can be ready to serve the public, and once hired officers must go about their business of not only serving and protecting, but also burnishing a better image for the public. I believe our sheriff’s department must do better but can only achieve what is desired with new leadership.
A new sheriff.