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Friday, June 25, 2021
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UWPD releases records of purchases for handguns, pepper spray

The University of Wisconsin Police Department (UWPD) released an updated expense record detailing their purchases of handguns, pepper spray and outdoor smoke grenades in the early days of this summer’s racial justice protests in Madison, which were previously redacted from an Aug. 11 expense record

The updated, unredacted record of UWPD’s expenses shows that UWPD spent over $2,000 on 9mm handguns for officers, nearly $5,000 on pepper spray aerosol canisters, over $1,000 on outdoor smoke grenades and $500 on Projecto Jet Refills, a long-range and high-volume pepper spray. 

These purchases were made between June 1 and July 10, as protests following the killing of George Floyd on May 25 first swept the city. UWPD helped the Madison Police Department (MPD) in controlling those demonstrations from May 30 to June 1, when it was later revealed that MPD spent almost $20,000 on crowd control resources including tear gas, pepper spray and foam bullets. 

In a press release accompanying the un-redacted records, UWPD said that the handgun order was unrelated to the protests, and other purchases were made to replenish supplies and “to prepare for potential future incidents.”

The department said that it decided to release the information to avoid distraction from its ongoing racial equity efforts, as they had faced criticism and speculation over the redacted funds’ use. The department defended their original choice to withhold the purchases.

“To be clear, the manner in which the records were prepared for release, including determining what information would be redacted, was consistent with how previous requests have been fulfilled and legally allowable under state law,” UWPD said in the press release. “There was no malicious intent or ulterior motives behind the department’s decision to redact this information.”

In UWPD Chief Kristen Roman’s Sept. 22 blog post, Roman acknowledged that UWPD did use pepper spray during violent protests, but denied the use of other crowd control materials.

“UWPD officers never used foam/rubber bullets or tear gas,” Roman said in the post. “UWPD did not supply MPD — or any responding agency — with pepper spray or other chemical agents.”

On Oct. 9, the UW Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) Coalition, a student organization aimed to unite student activists to make campus a more welcoming, inclusive and respectful environment for BIPOC students, led the ‘Get Cops Off Campus’ march to fight for a police-free campus. 

The Associated Students of Madison (ASM) student government also voted “no confidence” in UWPD last month, following ASM’s suspicions that the redacted lines in the original budget release were covering up UWPD’s alleged purchases of tear gas and other crowd-control materials.  

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