Madison – like the rest of the state, nation and planet – continues to face challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The nation has seen more than 600,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 24,000 COVID-19 deaths. These totals include 350 confirmed cases and 16 deaths here in Dane County. These are extraordinary circumstances we are all living in, and the collective response of government and the public has been unprecedented (stay at home orders, school closures, sports league cancellations, etc.). The restrictions put in place for our collective good create inconvenience, stress and financial crisis for many.
MPD officers, like other first responders, remain hard at work in our community. And we often do not have the luxury of practicing social distancing...officers are making arrests, responding to disturbances, and investigating crimes. They are engaging in confrontations with resistive subjects, conducting interviews in confined environments, and are providing emergency medical care to the sick or injured. They are driving arrested people to jail and conveying subjects in mental health crises to Winnebago. They are spending time in environments where COVID-19 and symptomatic patients are concentrated. Our work has not stopped...and while officers continue to face the usual threats to their safety that they are accustomed to, they now also run the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Worker's compensation provides protection to employees who are injured in the course of their duties. The COVID-19 pandemic poses a challenge that existing law is not well suited to address - it's pretty easy to prove whether an employee who sustains a physical injury did so at work, but if an employee contracts COVID-19 it's virtually impossible to prove when and where they were exposed to it. A number of states, recognizing this reality, have put forth legislation to address the plight of first responders who contract COVID-19. These bills have created a presumption that a first responder with COVID-19 was exposed to the virus while working.
Wisconsin appeared to be on track to do the same thing this week. Legislation responding to COVID-19 included a provision that would create a rebuttable presumption that if a first responder tests positive for COVID-19 the exposure was employment related. The presumption was time-limited, expiring 30 days after the termination of the Governor's public health emergency order. However, a late amendment to the bill removed this presumption. The law – signed yesterday – now requires proof that the first responder was exposed to an individual with a confirmed case of COVID-19 to receive any worker's compensation benefits.
Unfortunately, this amendment creates an extremely high burden for a first responder's COVID-19 illness to be covered under worker's compensation. Why? First, we know that many infected with COVID-19 will show no symptoms. Officers will encounter individuals throughout their shifts, many times without the opportunity for social distancing. And clearly there is no reason for someone with no symptoms to be tested for COVID-19...an officer could easily contract the virus from someone who is completely asymptomatic. Next, even when officers interact with symptomatic individuals (suspects, witnesses, victims), it will be the rare case where those individuals are tested for COVID-19. We rarely have a reason to convey people we encounter to an emergency room or other medical facility. Indeed, unless a symptomatic individual is in need of emergency medical care, it would be a bad idea for officers to convey them to a medical facility just for a COVID-19 test (as that potentially exposes more people to the virus). Finally, many people we encounter will not be interested in getting tested or providing test results to MPD to support a worker's compensation claim. There is not a solid legal mechanism to compel someone to submit to a COVID-19 test, and even if there were, doing so would require significant time and effort. When not working, our officers are staying home like everyone else; and it seems reasonable that a first responder who contracts COVID-19 did so at work.
We have implemented a number of strategies to protect the health of our workforce, and I'm grateful that no MPD employees have contracted COVID-19. Other law enforcement agencies have not been so fortunate. Nationally, some departments have seen significant portions of their workforce contract COVID-19; a number of officers have died as a result. Our partner agencies in Dane County have also seen officers contract COVID-19. Unfortunately, the response to these public servants – and to any MPD officer who might contract COVID-19 during the pandemic - seems to be, "thanks for your service but you're on your own." We owe more to the men and women who are protecting our community...who cannot stay "safer at home," but who remain in the field to maintain our safety. I hope that the State will re-visit this subject and provide first responders the protection they deserve.
The information provided below about some of the calls officers responded to is derived from notes provided by MPD Officers-In-Charge (OIC) at the end of their shifts. Most narratives represent early and preliminary information that was gathered by an OIC from those in the field who were actively working cases. The OIC is sharing what they were being told, in the moment. In many instances, facts and circumstances, even the type of crime listed, can change as officers, detectives and investigators continue their work.
From 6:00 a.m. on 04/15/2020 through 6:00 a.m. on 04/16/2020, MPD received 355 calls for service. This number does not include parking complaints or 911 misdials. A breakdown of the calls for service per district is as follows: Central (49), East (74), Midtown (63), North (50), South (35), West (53), and Other (31). "Other" is used for calls that either do not have a sector or the sector is not in the City. This would be used in the case of one of our officers assisting another law enforcement agency.
**Priority calls only from 12:09 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. due to calls for service.
WEST: Check Person – 8:02 a.m. Officers took a subject into custody on a Chapter 51 return order. Transport to Winnebago pending.
SOUTH: Domestic Disturbance – 10:16 a.m. Officers responded to a disturbance between two subjects (female victim and 18-year-old female suspect). The suspect was arrested for domestic disorderly conduct.
EAST: Weapons Offense – 10:54 a.m. Officers responded to Walgreens on Cottage Grove Rd regarding an armed subject/suspect (46-year-old male). The suspect fled on foot but was located/apprehended by officers at his residence after an approximately one hour stand-off. A knife was recovered. The suspect was arrested/charged with armed robbery and a parole hold.
NORTH: Information/Child Abuse – 1:54 p.m. Officers responded to a residence where a juvenile reported being struck by her mother. Investigation revealed that the mother had taken away the juvenile's phone after the juvenile was found hiding a male juvenile in her closet. The mother discovered the juvenile had another phone and when she went to grab it she ended up striking the juvenile in the lip. No injuries observed. Child Protective Services contacted. Other claims of abuse unfounded. No charges substantiated at this time.
EAST: Stolen Vehicle – 2:52 p.m. Officers received a report of a stolen vehicle. The vehicle was located unoccupied on Allied Drive. The vehicle was returned to its registered owner. A witness reported observing four juveniles in the vehicle earlier. Another set of keys (to a different stolen vehicle) were found in the vehicle.
MIDTOWN: Crash – 3:44 p.m. Officers responded to Old Middleton Road for a two-vehicle crash. Minor injuries reported. A driver was cited for multiple traffic infractions.
CENTRAL: Crash – 4:01 p.m. Officers responded to E. Johnson St for a crash. A vehicle struck an unoccupied vehicle and flipped on its roof. The driver was found under the influence. The driver (31-year-old male) was charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (3rd offense).
WEST: Drug Incident/Investigation – 4:13 p.m. Officers responded to Walgreens on Mineral Point Rd for a subject/suspect (33-year-old male) experiencing a drug overdose. Naloxone was administered to the suspect. The suspect was conveyed to a local hospital where he was cited for possession of heroin and possession of drug paraphernalia.
WEST: Juvenile Arrest – 7:30 p.m. Officers took a wanted subject/suspect (15-year-old male) into custody. The suspect was conveyed to the Juvenile Reception Center.
EAST: Missing/Runaway Juvenile – 9:22 p.m. Officers received a report of a missing/runaway juvenile (15-year-old female). No safety/medical concerns identified. Attempt to locate aired. The juvenile was listed as missing/runaway in the appropriate databases.
**Priority calls only from 1:46 a.m. to 5:13 a.m. due to calls for service.
SOUTH: Check Person – 12:09 a.m. Officers responded to check on a subject who reportedly cut himself. The subject was contacted and found to have sustained superficial injuries. A conveyance to a medical facility was not found necessary. Journey Mental Health consulted. A decision was made to have the subject remain at the group home. Officers disengaged.
SOUTH: Death Investigation – 12:55 a.m. Officers responded to the Beltline/Todd Drive for a truck vs. pedestrian crash. Lifesaving measures were attempted on the pedestrian, but were unsuccessful. Incident Report on MPD's website completed. Investigation continuing.
NORTH: Battery – 1:41 a.m. Officers responded to a disturbance between three subjects (female victim, 28-year-old female suspect and 36-year-old male suspect). The disturbance was over illegal substances. The two suspects were arrested for battery. Substances were tested and not found to be positive.