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Wisconsin Professional Police Association Asks Walker to Keep Capitol Open

MADISON, WI (FDL) – This is a big deal. The Wisconsin Professional Police Association has had a major role in the protests at the Capitol. So their response to the coordinated effort to shut down the Capitol and eject protesters is significant. Specifically, the executive director of the WPPA, Jim Palmer, is asking Walker to keep the building open, and is announcing a law enforcement sleepover at the building:

“The law enforcement officers from across the state that have been working at the Capitol and have been very impressed with how peaceful everyone has been,” said WPPA Executive Director Jim Palmer. “As has been reported in the media, the protesters are cleaning up after themselves and have not caused any problems. The fact of that matter is that Wisconsin’s law enforcement community opposes Governor Walker’s effort to eliminate most union activity in this state, and we implore him to not do anything to increase the risk to officers and the public. The costs of providing security can never outweigh those associated with a conflict.”

Palmer also announced that, beginning tonight, the WPPA is formally requesting its members from across the state to come to the Capitol to sleep amongst the throngs of other union supporters.

“Law enforcement officers know the difference between right and wrong, and Governor Walker’s attempt to eliminate the collective voice of Wisconsin’s devoted public employees is wrong,” continued Palmer. “That is why we have stood with our fellow employees each day and why we will be sleeping among them tonight.”

Technically, protesters will be allowed to sleep over in the Capitol tonight, but only on the first floor. But this raises the stakes a bit. You’re not going to see cops ejecting other cops from the building, if it comes to that tomorrow. And it raises the question of whether law enforcement will follow the orders of Governor Walker.

One of the biggest things in this protest has been the solidarity of the public safety employees, who are exempted from the collective bargaining restrictions in the bill. This was meant to split the public employee solidarity and reward the unions who backed Scott Walker in the election. But the police, firefighters and other public safety officials have had none of it. They have been active in the protest movement from the very beginning. And now, they’re jumping into it fully.

Amy Goodman told a story at her speech last night that she talked to a corrections officer who was a Republican along with most of his friends. He didn’t vote for Walker but his friends did, and now they’ve approached him to apologize. I don’t think you can over-emphasize the extent to which this is destroying law enforcement support for Republicans. This story is from Ohio, but it could easily be written in Wisconsin:

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Police and fire unions upset over a bill in the Ohio Statehouse that would sharply restrict collective bargaining say they will make sure Republicans supporting the proposal pay at the ballot box next year and beyond […]

“I think what is going to end up happening is you are going to make a lot of conservative-leaning safety forces liberal-leaning. It is going to make a lot of Democrats out of Republicans,” said Cleveland police union president Stephen Loomis, who said 70 percent of the officers in his membership are conservatives.

“They are setting the framework for the Democrats to take back the House next year,” Loomis said.

Republicans are losing the law enforcement community.

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David Dayen

David Dayen