During the height of Capitol protests in February and March, the sight of State Patrol Troopers in the Capitol became common. Today, when controversial committee meetings occur, a Progressive demonstration is planned, or the Legislature is in session, the presence of the Wisconsin State Patrol is more visible and active than the Capitol Police. Chief Tubbs has come under scrutiny by the GOP, led by right-wing talk show hosts and State Representative Stephen Nass, even after being praised for keeping his poise and professionalism at the height of mass demonstrations – which were by all objective accounts, peaceful. The presence of Fitzgerald as State Patrol Superintendent, and the scrutiny of Chief Tubbs are connected to a recently completed “After Action Report” by the Department of Military Affairs (DMA). The results will be politically driven by Scott Walker’s motivation to have complete control over Capitol security, especially in the likely event of more mass demonstrations this autumn.
A source inside the Department of Administration (DOA) recently informed Badger Democracy that there is growing interest within the Walker Administration and DOA in combining the Capitol Police and Wisconsin State Patrol. The source explained that this consolidation had been floated during the Doyle Administration, but former Superintendent David Collins made compelling arguments against – primarily the difference in mission. The State Patrol being a mobile force charged with highway/transportation enforcement, The Capitol Police being primarily a building-specific security force. The timing of GOP and Rep. Nass’ scrutiny of Chief Tubbs is of interest in light of this information. Inquiries along this line received no denial, only no comment from the Walker Administration, Rep. Nass, Chief Tubbs, and DOA. The appointment of Stephen Fitzgerald as Superintendent by the Walker Administration gives the Governor a crony to green light such consolidation, and address one of the weaknesses outlined in the “After Action Report.”
The “After Action Report” was requested by the Department of Administration (DOA) shortly after DOA re-opened the Capitol. The report was completed and submitted to DOA by the DMA in July, and impresses the need for more centralized control in security at the Capitol. This report stands as “expert testimony” on behalf of the DOA, and justifies its ability to implement increased security measures at the Capitol. The report specifies “…onsite incident management was a state issue and State Patrol should have more of a role (emphasis mine).” The report is critical of other Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA), including Capitol Police, Madison PD, and Dane County Sheriff’s Department –“ …LEA unity was skewed due to lack of willingness to enforce…by some LEAs” and “…some LEA self-deployed away from assignments they did not like…a lack of willingness to support the changing Rules of Engagement…” The bottom line from this report calls for more “centralized leadership” in security at the State Capitol. Scott Walker placed Stephen Fitzgerald in the perfect position to provide such “centralized leadership.”
Accusations of cronyism surrounded Fitzgerald’s appointment due to his sons Scott and Jeff serving as Senate Majority Leader and Assembly Speaker, respectively. There is significant evidence to back that claim. Badger Democracy obtained the resumes of all finalists who were interviewed for the position (Darren Price, David Collins, Major Sandra Huxtable, Stephen Fitzgerald, Benjamin Mendez ). Undoubtedly, David Collins, the prior Superintendent, is the most highly qualified candidate. In addition to a B.S. in Law Enforcement Administration, he is a graduate of the FBI Academy, and is a career law enforcement officer of over 30 years. Collins spent 18 years with the State Department of Criminal Investigation, including 8 as the Investigative Bureau Chief. Mr. Collins was contacted for this piece, and respectfully declined comment on the interview process. Stephen Fitzgerald, on the other hand, has served most of his recent Law Enforcement positions due to political appointment or election. Inquiries into Fitzgerald’s experience with Chicago Police Department from 1966-1974 raised more questions than answers regarding his time there – due to absence of (and incompleteness of) records from that time, lack of willingness of current CPD officers to discuss that turbulent time, and some sources (including former CPD Superintendent Richard Brzeczik) relying on distant memory and speculation. What is apparent, according to a to the Senate Judicial Committee on US Marshall qualifications, is Mr. Fitzgerald was under qualified for that position, attaining only an Associate Degree; the vast majority of Marshalls hold a Bachelor’s Degree. He was selected by Congressman James Sensenbrenner for nomination by President Bush in 2002. Congressman Sensenbrenner’s office was asked via phone and email inquiry to disclose the names of the other candidates, if any. They refused. The current US Marshall in Wisconsin Western District, Dallas Neville, was also Marshall prior to 2002, having been appointed by President Clinton. Marshall Neville applied for the position in 2002, but never received any reply to his application from Sensenbrenner. It is likely Fitzgerald was the only candidate considered by Sensenbrenner. It is solely these appointed positions which put Fitzgerald remotely in contention for his current job. When Badger Democracy asked Secretary of Transportation Mark Gottlieb if he felt the “most qualified candidate” had received the State Patrol position, his office replied with the following statement:
“Stephen Fitzgerald has had a long and distinguished career in law enforcement that makes him highly qualified for the job of State Patrol Superintendent. I am very pleased with the leadership he has provided since taking the position.”
Badger Democracy followed up that statement with request for clarification, that Secretary Gottlieb had not directly answered the question of Mr. Fitzgerald being the “most qualified candidate.” There was no further comment. The appointment of Stephen Fitzgerald is another example of cronyism in the Walker Administration, only slightly tempered by Fitzgerald’s experience gained by other convenient political appointments. In this case, it gives Scott Walker the ability to assemble his own private security detail at taxpayer expense.
The Legislature reconvenes in October to take up Scott Walker’s “jobs session” and unveil the new State Employee Handbook in the absence of a negotiated contract. Protests around the nation are building, recall strategies are increasing, and there is greater likelihood that mass protests will again return to the State Capitol. The “After Action Report” from the DMA gives the Walker Administration the expert testimony they need to rationalize more centralized and higher security at a moment’s notice. In the person of Stephen Fitzgerald, Walker has a State Patrol Superintendent who will act to do his bidding and use the troopers as a political security force. The DOA has a Superintendent who would support a consolidation of dissimilar forces for his own political and professional gain – as well as his ideological support of Scott Walker. The end result could be Scott Walker’s own private political security force, not unlike a third world dictator. Stay peaceful, stay united, stay strong.