There has been endless speculation and rumor since Scott Walker’s budget address and the security guarding the steam tunnel entrance to the Capitol. The “suits” seen in this video have been rumored to be private security – perhaps Wackenhut G4S.
Several calls to G4S finally produced a source who informed Badger Democracy that the “suits” in question are not G4S or Wackenhut; and in fact, that company has had no dealings with Scott Walker since the Milwaukee County Courthouse debacle. County Executive, Walker replaced (many would argue illegally) the County security with private security from Wackenhut G4S, the same company which came under federal scrutiny and investigation for its conduct in Afghanistan. No, the “palace guard” that night was not private security – it was part of the “Dignitary Escort Service” providing security for Governor Scott Walker. The group is a specialized unit of the Wisconsin State Patrol, charged with security for the Governor and his family. The speculation regarding the mysterious eagle lapel pins worn by the troopers was answered by Colonel Ben Mendez. That is the insignia of the “National Governor’s Security Division”, a national interagency security division of the National Governor’s Association. Mystery solved, end of story…not so fast.
There were obviously more than six (the official number on the detail) troopers in that detail that afternoon. Accounting for a certain undisclosed number that would have remained with Governor Walker, there are five to six troopers at any given time just in the video. Once again, Col. Mendez offers an explanation – the extra troopers were on a “job assessment” assignment. They were new, potential future recruits to the detail – this was an “on-the-job” assessment of their ability to perform the function of Dignitary Escort. Col. Mendez stated the Department is re-evaluating that decision. This was probably not the best environment to place those troopers in, given the potential volatility of the situation. Or is it? Another observation of note is the trooper’s lack of willingness to identify themselves – something which is Department policy. Troopers are expected to identify themselves as Wisconsin State Patrol with proper identification when asked, unless they are imminently at-risk. Col. Mendez also stated they are reviewing that issue.
There are several questions that come out of this video based on the knowledge that these are State Troopers on “Dignitary Escort” assignment. First, Wisconsin law prohibits the use of Wisconsin State Patrol in labor dispute or demonstration. Plain-clothed “security” may not be questioned as such – especially if they don’t identify themselves. If the standard practice for Troopers is to identify themselves, were they under orders to not do so? Thus offering another contingent of law enforcement to provide security after Madison Police and Dane County deputies were taken out of the situation. Not wearing identifiable uniforms or ID would allow them to avoid such scrutiny in the middle of a labor protest/dispute. Col. Mendez stated it was an oversight on their part. The need for “advance security” function would be a plausible and convenient excuse to station extra troopers anywhere – even in the public parking garage, which is Madison City property; or the Risser Building, which is DOJ property. The use of these troopers in this manner, in this situation (labor dispute), and the way they conducted themselves by refusing to ID raises more questions of the use of State Patrol during the demonstrations. A State Patrol lead by Stephen Fitzgerald.
Superintendent Stephen Fitzgerald (father of Scott and Jeff, if you haven’t been paying attention). In an administration that has been rife with favoritism and patronage, this appointment was questioned from the beginning . When one considers the events in and around the Capitol at the height of the protests; and the stationing of Troopers at the Capitol the selection also raises serious questions about Fitzgerald’s role. Not widely reported during the interviews for the job was the fact that the previous Superintendent, David Collins, was a finalist along with Colonel Ben Mendez, current (and previous) second in command. Collins was expected to be replaced with Walker’s administration coming into office. He spent a few days as a Major on re-assignment assuring he didn’t lose a position with the State Patrol (as necessitated by Wisconsin law protecting civil cervants from losing their jobs due to political appointments). In a statement thick with irony, Senator Glenn Grothman (R – West Bend) commented at the time:
“The arrangements made for Collins seem like “a cynical manipulation of the system”… one of the problems we have in government is that people are hired for jobs they may not be qualified for just because they’re somebody’s friend.”
“Someone’s friend”…or father. At the time of his appointment, Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb stated Fitzgerald was the most qualified for the job. More qualified than Collins, Mendez, or three other troopers who had applied. In fact, Fitzgerald was the only outside-agency finalist. There is nothing wrong with new blood, new ideas, but an examination of Collins’ resume (a Doyle appointee) and Fitzgerald’s show stark differences in law enforcement management and leadership experience:
Experience – Collins has led entire state-wide bureaus, managed multi-unit agencies, and headed state-wide investigation divisions. Fitzgerald was the Sheriff of Dodge County; nothing against Dodge county, there is a slight difference in quality of experience.
Education – Collins has a B.S. in Criminal Justice Administration, and has attended the FBI Academy Executive Institute. Fitzgerald holds an A.O.S. from Moraine Park; again, nothing against Moraine Park – but a slight qualitative difference.
Compare the resumes for yourself – be objective, and decide who you would hire to lead the Wisconsin State Patrol. This is patronage and cronyism at its worst. Placing the underqualified Fitzgerald in charge of the Wisconsin State Patrol – an honorable and respected agency is despicable. I commend Col. Mendez for his honesty, forthrightness, and loyalty to the troopers and public he serves. One can only imagine that he, too, is likely more qualified than Fitzgerald. Benjamin Mendez resume
Ask the question – is the State Patrol being manipulated as on March 1, 2011 to serve at the Governor’s behest, even if illegal as in a labor dispute; are there other agendas at work here we will find out in due time (as we have throughout this administration)? There has long been talk of combining the State Patrol and the Capitol Police – is this a potential first step – a Superintendent who does the bidding of his sons and the Governor to support the plan, and continue playing the role of “palace guard in-chief?” Perhaps there is no agenda – at the very least, once again, Scott Walker has shown a complete disregard for the well-being of the people of Wisconsin. This is a slap in the face to every other candidate who did not get the job, and to every trooper currently under Superintendent Fitzgerald’s command.