October 8, 2012
MPD Squares Solidly With First Amendment
The following is a statement from Chief Noble Wray:
There has been recent public discussion regarding City of Madison parade permits and how they are handled by the Madison Police Department. I feel it is very important to be very clear on this topic.
1. There has been no change in police policy.
2. There is no fee to parade or march.
3. The MPD has done nothing to hamper, hinder, or dissuade anyone from exercising their First Amendment rights. We are proud of our tradition of making Madison a safe place for democracy to happen.
Earlier this year Central District command staff members focused on ways to more efficiently manage their limited police resources. There are significant resource demands in the central city, which at times draw police resources from other parts of the city. The Central district also entertains the majority of requests for parade and street use permits. Given the strain on police resources to monitor these events, and consideration to tough budgetary times, Central District leaders thought it reasonable to have groups pay for the additional police services. This is something that is supported by ordinance.
It really comes down to the level of resources needed to ensure a safe and orderly event, and that is typically determined by its size, scope and nature. It was determined that - on a case by case basis - some applying for parade permits should hire special duty officers in order to keep their event safe, particularly when major thoroughfares were going to be blocked. This has been a long standing process allowed by ordinance.
Special duty officers are MPD officers who are paid by groups and organizations to have dedicated officers at their events: high school football games, hotel security, church service traffic control, parades, etc.
This past weekend two groups, who applied for parade permits, decided they would not pay for special duty officers and the MPD requested on-duty officers monitor these events to ensure safety for all.
The MPD will continue to work with applicants, and will recommend some hire special duty officers. If - like this weekend - they refuse, the MPD will continue to use existing, taxpayer supported resources to monitor events.
- Joel DeSpain, 266-4897