UW-Madison Police Department Chief Susan Riseling met with journalism students and professors Tuesday to discuss last week’s arrest of Denzel J. McDonald outside a university classroom.
School of Journalism and Mass Communication Director Hemant Shah introduced Riseling, who was joined by UWPD Public Information Officer Marc Lovicott and Assistant Dean of Students Kipp Cox. Riseling spent about 15 minutes talking about the recent campus and national climate before discussing the incident.
“I think the last 10 months, maybe, have been a particularly awkward time in the country. We have a nickname in the police department that we call, ‘Trump Effect,’” Riseling said. “People might have had thoughts in the past about stuff, but somehow they knew better than to say it out loud.”
Riseling went on to say there are at least two types of people who come to UW-Madison.
“The first are people where this is the most diverse place they’ve ever lived. And then there’s this other group of people who come to UW-Madison, and this is the least diverse place they’ve ever lived,” Riseling said. “We’ve got all of this going on and we’re blending it all. And as a result of the blend, I think we are going to have, by nature, problems.”
She said this blend causes problems out of ignorance and vindictiveness. She said she struggles with determining when the problems are vindictive or truly an ignorant mistake. She went on to note conscious and unconscious microaggressions also contribute to the problems.
It was not until 15 minutes into the talk that, after Shah prompted, Riseling began to address the McDonald incident specifically. She started by stating most of the points listed in her apology from last week.
African-American studies graduate student Bianca Gomez read a statement and list of demands for UWPD. Those demands included dismissing the case against McDonald due to civil rights violations, as well as returning his items, allowing him to graduate in May, and that the officers and administrators involved in the incident resign and give community control over UWPD.
“UW-Madison administration has 48 hours to comply with our demands or further action will be taken,” Gomez read.
Members of Freedom Inc., a local activist group, also attended and said they endorsed the demands. Community activist Alix Shabazz reread the demands in support.
Riseling reiterated that in her 24-year-career with UWPD, she has always left her door open to speak with the community.
She also noted that although some vandalism charges can be served with a civil forfeiture rather than arrest, these incidents had become more than $4,000 in damages. The officer statutorily had no choice but to make the arrest, according to Riseling.
McDonald’s case has not yet been filed.