Department of Administration installs 482 panic buttons in Capitol officesAttempts to step up Capitol security continued this week with the installation of panic buttons in staff offices and the continued targeting of certain protesters.
By: By Clay Barbour, The Wisconsin State Journal, Superior Telegram
Attempts to step up Capitol security continued this week with the installation of panic buttons in staff offices and the continued targeting of certain protesters.
The Department of Administration confirmed Tuesday that it installed 482 panic buttons in offices around the statehouse, in an effort to provide a level of comfort for staffers who they say have felt harassed by the presence of protesters in the historic building.
The wireless buttons send an alert to Capitol police, who will respond immediately, DOA Spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said. "(Staffers) have basically been told to press it anytime they feel threatened," she said.
Marquis said the buttons cost a total of $103,172, a total that will be divided between the DOA, the Wisconsin State Senate and Assembly and the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
That news comes a day after Capitol police continued its crackdown on protesters accused of holding or posting signs and banners in the Rotunda. Marquis said seven citations were written Monday to four protesters, all of which were issued at protesters' homes and in one case, a workplace.
"The citations were served at their homes to avoid confrontation and maintain order at the Capitol," she said.
But that is not how many of the protesters see it. Bart Munger of Milton received two tickets, each totalling $200.50, for lack of a permit and an illegal display of a sign. Police delivered them to his job on campus at UW-Madison, where he works maintenance.
Munger, who attended the noon sing-along protest at the Capitol Tuesday, said he felt the move was meant to intimidate him. Fellow protester, Arthur Kohl-Riggs, said it seemed police were trying to get Munger fired.
"It's a clear case of harassment," he said. "And they made sure to do it where it couldn't be caught on camera, because they know it would get a lot of people upset."
More than 100 people turned out for the Tuesday sing-along, a number far greater than what the daily tradition had become before new Capitol Police Chief David Erwin announced he was going to crack down on the event, held for some time without a police permit.
The strict enforcement of the rule, along with actually ticketing and arresting some violators, seems to run in direct opposition to the state's earlier stated position.
In December 2011, Jocelyn Webster, the then-DOA spokeswoman and now-communication director for Gov. Scott Walker, told several news outlets that "No one is going to be arrested for not being in compliance with the permit policy."
When asked about the apparent change, Marquis would only say, "The standards upon which the police take action remains the same. Arrests are based upon the law."
State Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said she understands the desire to be safe, but thinks the chief's approach has been heavy handed.
"It's hard to know when you will need a panic button, until you need it," she said. "But I have never felt threatened, especially by simply having people sing songs."
State Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, agreed that he has never felt really unsafe in the building, but added, "It's never a bad idea to be careful."
(c)2012 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)
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