The Madison Police Department spent nearly $20,000 on tear gas, pepper spray, foam bullets and other riot control materials in response to protests after the death of George Floyd from May 30 to June 1, according to an open records request.
According to the request, the MPD’s purchase order revealed two charges of $7,680 and $10,939 spent on crowd control weapons for a total of $18,619. MPD took the money out of its budget — which comes from taxpayers — to replenish the non-reusable supplies in its inventory following the three days of protests.
MPD received the materials from Streichers and Midwest Defense Solutions which supplies various police gear, ammunition and chemical “irritants.”
The MPD did not respond to a request for comment.
At the same time, the UW-Madison Police Department assisted MPD in handling the protests.
Two teams of UWPD riot officers who were trained in crowd control techniques and using crowd control ammunition reportedly helped the MPD on May 30 and May 31 at protests in downtown Madison, according to documents obtained via Open Records Request.
In an early June phone call with News Lockdown founder and investigative journalist Mason Muerhoff, UWPD spokesperson Marc Lovicott would neither “confirm or deny” whether UWPD also used tear gas and other crowd control measures. UWPD Chief Kristen Roman denied that accusation on her blog on Tuesday, three months after the fact, stating “UWPD officers never used foam/rubber bullets or tear gas. UWPD did not supply MPD – or any responding agency – with pepper spray or other chemical agents."
In response to the recent developments, Matthew Mitnick, UW-Madison student, Chair of the Associated Students of Madison and Committee Chair of the Police Budget Subcommittee, said he along with other ASM leaders would meet Thursday with Roman to investigate more about the claim that UWPD supplied MPD with tear gas.
The ASM leaders will also present a list of demands to Roman. If she does not comply, Mitnick said he would move forward with a vote of no-confidence.
Mitnick said he would one day like to see a tear gas ban as well as a ban on all chemical ammunitions implemented at UWPD.
“The fact that UWPD has the ability to discharge chemical ammunition to the very students whose tuition goes to pay for it is extremely problematic and an abuse of rights,” Mitnick said.
Caroline Haberland-Ervin, one of the many UW students at the protests in late May, experienced first-hand violence by the police during the first few days of demonstrations.
“As a [person of color], I immediately began to feel threatened and scared for my life within a few hours on the first day of the demonstrations,” Haberland-Ervin said. “The police initiated the violence by spraying tear gas in front of innocent and peaceful protesters with no hesitation.”
With vivid memory, Haberland-Ervin recounted the experiences she witnessed with the MPD when she attended the protests, but one moment stood out the most.
As she and her father observed the protests from a close distance — eventually running away from a cloud of tear gas — a police officer approached the two with a baton in one hand and a can of pepper spray in the other, ready to release it on them.
“My father had to scream for them to let us go, even when we had done nothing wrong,” Haberland-Ervin said. “I felt scared for my life, my father's life and others part of the Black community. The budget of the MPD is outrageous and needs to change.”
Editor’s note: This article was edited on Sept. 24 2:50 p.m. to include the name of News Lockdown founder Mason Muerhoff and a statement from UWPD Chief Kristen Roman’s blog. The statement that the Associated Students of Madison may call for Chief Roman’s removal has been retracted.