Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mahoney Misfires

I like Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney. I think he’s an excellent cop and an honest man, and I think he really does want to protect, serve, and do all those things we expect of a public servant who wears a badge and has sworn an oath to protect us. I’ve interviewed him countless times for news stories and have found him to be refreshingly honest and forthcoming. I’ve been with him many times in social situations.

But I think Sheriff Mahoney went a bit too far earlier this week when he said he would not ask the Deputies of the Dane County Sheriff’s Department to serve as “palace guards” in an effort to limit access to the Capitol building.

I think the Sheriff’s background as a union man – and his personal politics -came out a bit too much when he made the “palace guard” remark. It’s a complicated dance law enforcement authorities have to do, when it comes to pulling duty at the Capitol with the massive demonstrations of recent days. The Capitol Police are in charge. But under the same sort of deal that every rural and urban fire department and law enforcement agency in the area has, they frequently call on each other for help.

They call these deals “mutual assistance” agreements. As a resident of the Town of Madison, I know that if something big comes up, something too big for my township’s police or fire department to handle, that they’ll get immediate and unquestioning assistance from neighboring communities like Madison, Fitchburg, Monona, Verona, or wherever. It’s a good deal for everybody. Fires get put out more quickly, more lives are saved, and more criminals are caught. If some drunk is weaving down the Beltline at 2 AM, I know that every cop in the area…city, township, Sheriff’s deputy or State Trooper….will get involved.

And so it is, and it should be, whether there are 75 or 75 thousand demonstrators at the Capitol. Every law enforcement agency helps; and, no surprise, taxpayers all over the state wind up with the bill for the overtime hours run up by the cops.

It’s no secret that Dave Mahoney’s personal politics are quite different than Scott Walker’s. But cops aren’t Democrats or Republicans. They’re sworn officers. They took an oath to protect both Glenn Grothman and Brett Hulsey – no matter their own personal politics, left or right. (The scene of Hulsey assisting Grothman to get through the crowd and back into the Capitol yesterday was so surreal!)

So, the next time Sheriff Mahoney is questioned by the media about why his deputies are up there at the Capitol, it might be best just to say “like every other law enforcement agency in the state, we operate under mutual assistance agreements, and we’ve been asked to help out”…..and just leave it at that.


  1. Mahoney's remark was exceptionally .....ahhhh....silly.

    As soon as an LEO breaks the 'impartiality' chain, he puts into jeopardy the entire law enforcement mechanism. IOW, he sets the table for anarchy.

  2. I'm willing to give anyone who has earned the level of respect expressed by our blogger the benefit of the doubt.

    Without knowing the backstory, I presume the honorable Sheriff Mahoney was not talking about shirking his duty or displaying some sort of bias in enforcing the law.

    On the other hand, I am willing to presume he was talking about not being co-opted into doing the political dirty work of the Walker regime. Manipulating the levers of civil authority to achieve partisan political ends is as commonplace in our history as it is shameful.

    An honest cop who won't be used by political thugs is indeed exceptional and courageous.

    Instead of parroting the Faux News bogeyman imagery (anarchy, indeed), the fringe blowhards out there should learn the lyrics to "Union Maid." I suggest they take note of the reference to deputy sheriffs who lacked Mr. Mahoney's integrity.