As we approach the Spring Election in April many issues are bandied about in an attempt to link a candidate with voters. In the Madison race for mayor and a wide array of aldermanic contests crime and policing are often topics being presented for answers from those on the ballot. While those who commit illegal actions make headlines the fact is the fear of crime outpaces the actual data of what is happening in our communities.
When it comes to the top-of-the-fold crimes that get attention the statistics from Madison are heading in the right direction. The city saw six homicides in 2022, 40% fewer than the previous year; shots fired calls were also down 39%. It goes without saying there has been a raft of car thefts and wayward teenagers who seem hellbent on making for a mugshot rather than an honor roll lineup. Even then the data proves stolen vehicle cases were down 12% and home and vehicle break-ins fell 33%. But when it comes to the city as a whole it is not improper to say that for the general population, the crime rate should not be the first or second concern that roils voters at the polls.
With the vote over, however, the rightwing news channel appeared to decide things weren’t that bad after all, and decreased its coverage of violent crime by 50% compared with the pre-election average.
I faulted the Republican rhetoric at the time on my CP Facebook page as far more about election ranting than most of the nation experienced. I noted in November 2022 that what occurred starting in 1829 still resonated. President Andrew Jackson was going to root out the corruption and rot that had been placed into the governmental offices by sacking those appointed by former President J. Q. Adams. But historians have discovered that in the Tennessean’s first term, he removed only 1 in 11 officeholders. Clearly, with that evidence, the use of hyper-based rhetoric for political aims far exceeded any actual abuse in departments of the federal government. Repeat and rinse.
While I had my lawn sign firmly planted for Gloria Reyes prior to the Madison Professional Police Officers Association making their endorsement and understanding that some locales in Madison have economic and social issues that are meshed with crime statistics it bears repeating that we need to stay true to the data. Our city always has room for improvement, like putting body cams on every officer and making sure there is a resource officer in every high school. We know that any criminal act is absolutely out of bounds. But let us not drift away from another fact. We have a city we can be proud of and no candidate for any office should try to paint it otherwise.
One of the points I continuously make as a step to stem gun violence is to legally go after the parents who assist in weaponizing their children. Giving assistance so as to allow those with mental health issues or legal pitfalls to gain deadly guns must be addressed by our courts. Having parents act rashly either out of some ‘familial emotions’ toward a troubled child or for partisan reasons can no longer be countenanced by society. As such, the news today from Highland Park was what we needed to learn, after far too many deadly mass shootings.
The father of the man charged in the Highland Park Fourth of July parade shooting was indicted by a grand jury Wednesday for helping his son obtain firearms.
Robert E. Crimo Jr. is to be arraigned Thursday on seven counts of reckless conduct for sponsoring his son’s state gun ownership application despite allegedly knowing his son had threatened to kill himself and his family.
Prosecutors filed seven counts, one for each person killed at the Highland Park parade last year. A reckless conduct charge carries a maximum sentence of three years.
Crimo Jr. has been free on bail since prosecutors charged him in December. (It needs to be noted the victims of the mass shooting still reside in a cemetery.)
I am often reminded that family structures and values are essential foundations for our youth. The parents of mass shooter Bobby Crimo are perhaps the epitome of what should be stressed in family planning classes for new parents on what not to become. I was flabbergasted last year to read and sadly see, Denise Pesina, the killer’s mother, pull down her top and expose her right breast while confronting the professional SWAT personnel waiting to enter her home following the slaughter during the Fourth of July parade. That act was one more piece of the growing puzzle as to the lack of character of the killer’s parents and what type of home environment existed. It was not reported in the news if that photo was then used in her end-of-the-year holiday letter. ‘Gosh, what a busy year we have had…..’
But as I noted last July nothing proved the lack of parenting skills or the total disregard for the community safety more clearly than when Robert Crimo, Jr., the father of the mass shooter, signed off on his son’s application for a deadly gun in December 2019. That occurred despite the son having two previous encounters with local police, including one in September 2019 where he allegedly threatened to “kill everybody” in his family. Well, sure, get that unhinged one a deadly weapon!!
We know that Crimo, Jr, wanted to be the mayor of Highland Park, and desired his conservative views to be enacted in the community. What those voters are discovering more and more is how unworthy Crimo was as a parent, let alone a potential (gasp) public servant. There is appropriate outrage being heard about this case on Chicago radio today. I hear much agreement as to why parents must be held liable in courts for their child’s actions, especially when due to a deadly gun being placed in the hands of a very troubled person. This blog has repeatedly stated parents of young people who use guns to shoot, kill, and create violence need to be held accountable. We know that in the Highland shooting an adult was responsible for the fact the shooter was able to place his hands on the weapon. There is no way that any sane person can say parental/adult actions, such as with this mass shooting, should not be addressed by the law that makes sure there is a responsibility shared by those who helped to foster the violent outcomes.
As a general matter, it needs to concern all of us how gun owners carelessly leave weapons around their homes. How a child walks out of the house on the way to school with a loaded shotgun or a loaded handgun baffles me. How parents are so tone-deaf to the problems that their child is having BEFORE a violent act occurs, confuses me. Why we as citizens do not tell the NRA that we have had enough death and violence as a result of their buying politicians, and thereby stopping needed gun legislation from getting passed, is in itself a crime. Inept and thoughtless parents are just another slice of the crazy pie.
It might also be an excellent time to ask if parents cannot control their offspring with guns then perhaps should forfeit their use of the child as a tax deduction. The rest of society should not have to continually pay the price for bad parenting.
It once was a trait of sitting presidents that when domestic politics became unbearable a foreign trip was planned to divert attention and showcase the power and skills of a leader. Perhaps the most prime example of such a transparent move was when President Richard Nixon took his phlebitis-ridden leg to Egypt to talk with President Sadat. With an open-air motorcade, the beleaguered Watergate figure waved to the cheering throngs. It did make for powerful imagery on evening newscasts and morning papers across the United States. It was but a mere respite because in the end the law always prevails.
Late Saturday night I thought of Nixon in Egypt as I read some of the news reports following Donald Trump’s campaign appearances earlier that day. Apart from the oddly disjointed packaging of his remarks and his clear desire to undermine Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, I asked a question as to why a sudden need to be in front of a group of people to make a headline at this time? After all, Trump has been mostly invisible since his announcement to seek the 2024 Republican presidential nomination in late 2022. As with most political moves, regardless of person or party, I like to know what drives and motivates action.
Early Monday morning it became clear as to why Trump was trying to insert a headline over the weekend so as to divert and deflect from the real news about the one-termer. The Manhattan district attorney’s office began presenting evidence to a grand jury about Trump’s role in paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign. This is the brick-by-brick construction of potential criminal charges that District Attorney Alvin Bragg needs to bring his case to fruition. There was no need to further grasp the weight of the matter than to know David Pecker, the former publisher of The National Enquirer, was seen entering the courthouse with his lawyer early in the morning.
Meanwhile, in the famed Fulton County case things were far beyond simmering as we read last week that District Attorney Fani Willis stated in court that decisions in the case were “imminent”. This case has been fascinating to follow as it has grown and would appear to be not only the first to press charges against Trump but also legal actions that have burrowed the fastest into the fake elector issue, a highly troubling attempted illegal power grab by an autocrat.
The case started when Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and made a statement that proves his disdain for our election processes and any notion of common decency. Trump asked if the Georgian could “find” the votes needed to overturn Trump’s narrow election loss in the state to Joe Biden.
“All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump said on the call.
It then comes as no surprise with these legal developments percolating in various states and the heat increasing daily Trump would seek out his own ‘Nixon Cairo moment’. Needless to say, Trump lacks in the finer arts of politics and optics. In his meandering comments from behind a podium, and even with a teleprompter, Trump was trying to dodge his future problems. He tried to deter the GOP from siding closer to DeSantis. Trump claimed that the Florida governor was “trying to rewrite history” regarding the Covid pandemic. “There are Republican governors that did not close their states,” he said and then added, “Florida was closed for a long period of time.”
Michael Cohen wrote a stinger of a columnthis morning with this pithy take on the weekend events, most cutting and too true.
This feels oddly unfair to DeSantis. Few governors have gone to greater lengths to ensure their state’s citizens are exposed to and die from COVID-19 … and he’s not even getting any credit from the former president. FFS, what does a Republican have to do to imperil the lives of their constituents and get rewarded for it?
Nixon could escape the heat and investigations by standing on the world stage with power all about him. In contrast, to see Trump squirm for headlines and try to deflect from his future legal woes seems akin to a small boy putting on his dad’s suit. For now, at least, not an orange suit.
Absolute and justified rage could be felt in the newspaper stories from the Memphis Commerical Appeal over the past two weeks as the details of events surrounding the death of Tyre Nichols were reported. Today a bombshell landed that would have made the UPI teletype machine back in my radio broadcasting days send bells sounding as news of the five police officers involved in the traffic stop that precipitated Tyre Nichols’ death were charged with second-degree murder. The young man died January 10th, three days after a traffic stop near his mother’s home and after what Memphis Police called a “confrontation.”
But those who have viewed the police cam footage have a different perspective than it being a mere “confrontation’. Lawyers describe the video, which the public at some point will see as an “unadulterated, unabashed, nonstop beating” for three minutes, saying Nichols was allegedly treated like a “human piñata” by the officers.
The swift moves by the district attorney and legal system underscore the gravity and overwhelming evidence that points to depravity among these five officers, but also a lack of professionalism within the ranks of the Memphis Police Department. There is no way that five officers out of the blue (no pun intended) act in such a fashion, and in unison without there being a rot in the entire system that requires a top to bottom wholesale cleaning. This type of behavior did not just occur due to the alignment of planets or the lack of enough strength in morning coffee. The top brass of the police department must be addressed as Memphis seeks not only justice for Nichols, but also a complete understanding of how this monstrous crime could have ever happened.
Nichols “suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating,” according to preliminary findings of an autopsy commissioned by his family after being stopped by officers on suspicion of reckless driving. Reports in the Appeal stated police wrote initially that a “confrontation occurred” as the officers approached his vehicle and that Nichols ran away. There was then “another confrontation” as the officers arrested him. For a traffic stop. No one should be murdered for a traffic stop.
In addition to the horrific murder of Nichols, I wish to add how much this hurts and unfairly defames police officers around the nation. While most police officers are not of the stripe found in Memphis and pictured above, they will still be viewed in a light that undercuts their authority and required necessity in our society. That is another reason a complete and immediate evaluation be made of the practices of the Memphis Police Department. The nation needs to see a reckoning of justice in this case.
It is not possible to write about each multiple shooting or every instance of insanity that plays out with gun owners and their crimes. Given, however, the deeply fractured nature of our politics and the attacks on our democracy that peaked with the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan 6th, the news over the MLK holiday weekend from New Mexico truly startled me. A staunch Donald Trump supporter and losing candidate for state assembly was arrested for being involved in paying suspects to shoot up the homes of four Democratic politicians.
James Patterson could not have plotted a more sinister and dangerous storyline than what Albuquerque Police stated had occurred when Solomon Pena contracted individuals to carry out at least two of the shootings. Pena, himself, was present and fired a weapon at one of the other shootings. Those fired upon were the homes of two county commissioners and two state legislators.
The report from NPR on Monday was, frankly put, frightening in every respect. In one case bullets ripped into the wall of a child’s bedroom.
The first act of gun violence happened on December 4th when eight shots were sent into the home of County Commissioner Adriann Barboa. That was followed on December 11th when more than a dozen bullets were fired into the home of County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley. Representative Javier Martinez’s home was also involved in a shooting incident in December while this month the home of state representative Linda Lopez was fired upon. That is where bullets blasted into a 10-year-old’s bedroom while she slept.
While the danger of such actions on a human level is most evident, it is the undermining of our democratic foundations that also must be addressed. The notion that violence is considered an option when losing a political race is absolutely disgusting and reprehensible. It strikes against the very ideas of what constitutes free and fair elections in a democracy. We know that Donald Trump has taught a large percentage of his base of supporters to act recklessly and claim election fraud at every turn. Police stated that Peña alleged his defeat was the result of election fraud. Gosh, where did that line of horse rot originate?
It needs to be noted that Peña lost his state assembly challenge to incumbent Democrat Miguel P. Garcia by 5,679 to 2,033, or 74% to 26%. Or to round out those numbers Peña was defeated by roughly 50%!!
So, what did the losing candidate do upon having voters utterly reject him? NBC News reported that two handguns were found by police in a Nissan Maxima owned by Peña during a traffic stop on Jan. 3. One of the guns appeared to have fired shots outside the home of state Sen. Linda Lopez roughly 40 minutes before and 4 miles away, police said in a statement. A shell casing found in the Maxima matched those found at the scene of another shooting, an incident outside the home of new state House Speaker Javier Martinez on Dec. 8th.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller correctly summed up the crimes and placement of them into the larger issue at hand.
“This was about a right-wing radical, an election denier, who was arrested today; someone who did the worst imaginable thing you can do when you have a political disagreement, which in turn that into violence. That should never be the case”.
There is another factor needing consideration, and that is the Republican Party in New Mexico. Voters knew Pena was previously arrested and convicted of stealing goods from multiple big box stores as part of a “smash and grab” scheme. They knew their candidate served close to seven years in prison. Peña was also ordered to go through alcohol/substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling, 90 days in Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous, and anger management, court records show.
And yet….and yet. The New Mexico GOP thought him the perfect name to be on the November ballot. What they offered the voters was a terrorist who was not able to grasp that every election has a winner and a loser. Peña was told over the past two years of bombast and absurdity from Trump and his ilk that election-denying is just another part of the GOP playbook. A 10-year-old could have been a victim of this lunacy.
How many Republicans will now step up and denounce the fascism that has taken hold of their party?
Once again we have a narrative that, sadly, fits the profile of so many others about angry white men. The lunatic who is fed continuously the fascist offerings from conservative media acts out, but then the ones who pour the gasoline through the airwaves pretend they had nothing to do with the dreadful outcome.
David DePape attacked Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. With a hammer. To the skull. Once again strong evidence exists of his personal history of online radicalization. DePape’s online postings included a range of false conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, (shocked!) Jan. 6, (shocked) coronavirus vaccines, (shocked) the war in Ukraine (shocked), and QAnon. (shocked). Where or where would one find a daily…no, hourly…diet of these bat-shit crazy offerings in America? Hmmmmmm…..
A native of Canada, DePape was once a Green Party-registered public nudity activist in San Francisco but time shows that his dive into conservative conspiracy theories was where he thrived. He railed about pedophilia, elites, transgenders, and anti-whiteness. His blog contained bigotry against a wide range of groups and topics like “Holohoax.” WordPress, correctly, removed one of his sites Friday. (This blog also uses WordPress)
I am not sure what it will take to wake up the Republican Party to the dangers they are creating among their base and using right-wing media to spread the disease. The untenable attack on Pelosi is just the latest tragic and telltale sign of what is happening in the land due to the corrosive and thuggish people who listen to the rhetoric from conservative media. Sadly, we have, yet again, the outcome of a litany of absurd and ridiculous far-right looney conspiracy theories that took root in the mind of someone who believed it was time to act out on behalf of all who share his views. The GOP must reckon with the fact that their embrace of lunacy does have consequences. They can not pound over and over—year after year–false narratives about the 2020 election and vaccines and rants about transgender people and the insanity of the ‘white replacement theory’ and fail to understand that is does inevitably incite violence.
I have been consistent and continuous about the need to consider the grave dangers our democracy faces, as it slides towards embracing autocracy and fascism. The rhetoric and programming from AM talk radio to FOX News are aimed at white males, and stirring their resentments about a growing list is the goal. Stoking the fears of the undereducated and lower economic strata is proving to be a violent and dangerous path for the nation.
The Republican Party needs to turn off its self-created madness.
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.
Once again, the tail wishes to wag the dog in Madison. The latest example is a short-sighted and dangerous attempt by the City Council to limit the range of tools Madison Police have available to them in times of crisis and danger to the public.
Longtime readers know I view a legitimate protest march being vastly different from a riot. In 2020, when national concern was registered about the death of George Floyd many local people marched and demonstrated peacefully. Madison Police used the resources of their department to make sure marches were safe by closing streets and routing traffic away from the crowds. Local police are not averse to assisting the right to free speech in the public square, in fact, they help enhance it.
But as the daylight would give way to darkness, however, the marches were taken over by a violent element that was not driven by any consideration for policy changes through a due process of governing. There was no higher calling about social justice or honoring Floyd. Instead, the looting and mindless ransacking of businesses on State Street and around the State Capitol continued night after night. What was as disturbing to me as the destruction itself was the attempt by some social ‘advocates’ who tried to morph the two—trying to rationalize the wanton criminal behavior as some extension of anger about policing in general. The absurdity of such a dialogue was mind-numbing.
Trying to find kinship between a protest march and a full-blown riot is like trying to align a tomato with a suspension bridge. It simply can not be done. While police work to make sure protesters are safe when pressing their message, we should also want law enforcement to be most determined to quell and stop the smashing of windows, the tearing down of statuary at the statehouse (!) and to stem the undermining of basic law and order.
As such, I fully support the police using tactics that will meet the mission as needed. It then comes as no surprise that I am very much opposed to 8th District Alderperson Juliana Bennett’s proposal to enact a ban on MPD and all other mutual aid agencies using tear gas, mace, all chemical irritants, and impact projectiles for use in crowd/riot control. Living on the Madison Isthmus I can attest to the great alarm homeowners and fellow residents felt as the live news reports showed the destruction occurring while we stood on our balcony and looked out towards the statehouse dome wondering what morning light would show for damage. As we know the damage was widespread and extremely costly.
The reason we should care about the allowance for such chemical tactics to stop a riot was perhaps best summed up by Bonnie Roe a local concerned citizen. “What if tear gas could not have been used by MPD to help an MFD firetruck get through an unruly crowd, during a night of civil unrest in August of 2020, to put out a fire before many gallons of gasoline were ignited, causing a massive explosion and endangering many lives?”
This resolution from Bennett was referred to Madison’s Public Safety Review Committee where on August 10th it passed on a 4-1 vote. All three of the Alders on this committee favored the ban, so there is much concern from those who favor law and order about the passage of this matter. The next city council meeting on September 20th will deal with this resolution where an expected vote will be held. The matter only requires a simple majority (11 out of 20) votes to pass.
The implications of its passage should not be lost on Madison residents. That was spelled out by James L. Palmer, II, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association. He stated, “Drastically impairing MPD’s ability to resort to de-escalation tools – especially when it has done so on a very limited basis – would be a regressive policy change that would only serve to compromise the safety of the community and the police. Furthermore, it would likely undermine the city’s ability to rely upon the mutual aid of its neighbors who are unlikely to risk these serious public safety implications”
I would ask, for the sake of sanity and sound policing for the benefit of the vast majority of law-abiding in our city that you contact your alder and demand a NO vote on the resolution to undermine Madison Police.
So why do I care about this issue? I wish to conclude this post with a personal explanation. As a boy growing up in Waushara County, there was one thing that could be counted on each summer with certainty. There would be at least one major thunderstorm that would be so dramatic as to produce straight-line winds that would snap large trees and rip a roof off a barn or old shed and carry it into a nearby field. Following the weather reports on the radio and the tracking of clouds at home, we could figure out where some storm damage might be viewed. Dad was a 40-year elected member of the Hancock Town Board and so needed to know what road cleanup was required after a storm.
I am much aware of those drives in the country as Dad assessed the storm damage. I also recall the first time I parked at a ramp following the 2020 State Street rioting. There had been scores of newspaper photos and television coverage, but seeing for myself the enormity of the damage to every single store, block after block, was hard to fathom. This past week I caved to one of my weaknesses—gyro sandwiches—and after devouring one walked State to again pass empty storefront after empty storefront. Yes, some are the result of a pandemic. Too many, however, are the result of a riot. A needless series of violent and outlandish actions. Our city must have the tools at our disposal to stem riots in the future.
I again urge my readers to contact your alder and demand a NO vote on the resolution to disallow the use of tear gas, mace, all chemical irritants, and impact projectiles for use in crowd/riot control by Madison Police.