Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


SPECIAL REPORT: A night in Madison with the MPD

You love them and you hate them. When they are on your side, they are your best friends, but when you are up against the officers of the Madison Police Department, they represent all that is evil in this world. Many students at UW-Madison have only one relationship with the police, and it is not a friendly one. Two reporters from the Herald had the unique experience of traveling with two of Madison’s nighttime police officers, the “David 50s.” Responsible for the downtown district, the “David 50s” bring contempt to the eyes of underage drinkers and relief to the eyes of the harassed, but they do their job well.

11:04 p.m.: Signing our lives to the MPD

The police car pulled up to the curb of Madison’s City/County Building. After quick handshakes, we followed Officers Scott Favour and Matt Tye down the winding halls of the MPD and signed our lives away for the night.

“I don’t mind it when it’s busy, but I don’t want anything bad to happen,” Tye said as we cruised to State Street to begin the night.

We parked halfway down State Street and made our way to the top. Our mission was clear: to make sure underage college students weren’t taking over the downtown bars illegally.
According to the officers, underagers are picked out because they are the ones most likely to cause trouble due to their inexperience in handling alcohol.

“Right now they’re happy,” Favour said. “But once they get a little alcohol in them …” Favour faded off as he fended off one of the many drunken hordes of people who harass police officers nightly. Whether girls want to hit on them or guys want to let them know just how they feel (“You’re all going to hell,” one younger guy yelled late into the night), Favour and Tye take it in stride.

“If people are going to insult you, it can’t really bother you,” Tye explained. “It comes with the job.”
11:18 p.m.: Leave those kids alone and they’ll go crazy

First stop: the State Bar and Grill, 118 State St.

“Usually we don’t start bar checks on Friday and Saturday until after 11 o’clock,” Favour said before giving us a rundown of the underage busting process.

“We’ll walk all the way through from front to back,” Favour said. “I’ll count people, and Matt [Tye] will watch my back so someone can’t sneak up on me and try to hit me with a bottle or something.”

The officers first looked to make sure the bar wasn’t over its capacity.

“We’ll walk all the way through the bar counting people and let everybody see the police are there before we start contacting anybody,” Favour said. “Then we’ll work our way from back to front, maybe ID-ing people we think are underage.”

This issue is controversial; many students feel if they are not causing trouble, the cops shouldn’t pester them. Favour and Tye do not want to bust a bunch of underage drinkers, so they are sure to give them plenty of time to scurry from the bars.

“We try to give them the opportunity to see us first so that if they are smart they will leave,” Favour said. “We’re not interested in writing a zillion tickets, contrary to what students think.”

Favour and Tye made their way to the back of the bar amid yells of “The cops are here!” and huddled.

“Nobody’s giving me the obvious signs,” Favour said. “Sometimes they’ll suddenly try to push their drinks away from themselves, but nobody’s really doing that here.”

The bar was under control and under capacity limits.

“Let’s get out of here,” Favour said. “Let’s move on.”

11:31 p.m.: Finding that special someone

After visits to Paul’s Club, 212 State St., (packed, but under capacity) and the Orpheum, 216 State St., bypassing a few of the bars that have less severe problems, the officers made their way into Bull Feathers, 303 N. Henry St.

After winding down the staircase, past a line of jeerers and through the club, we spotted our first culprits of the night. The two underage girls’ smiles quickly turned to frowns as Favour leaned down and politely asked to see their IDs. After they produced their fakes, Favour gave them the look he’d given hundreds before them, and they gave up the act.

“I can write you a ticket for being underage, which is $345.50 — but I’m not going to,” Favour told them after they admitted they were not 21 just yet. “I am going to give you a ticket for having a false ID, and that’s $161.”

Favour expressed his sympathy with their condition, but made his point that the law is the law.
“I have to write tickets for underage people I find in the bars,” Favour said. “I will get these written out as quickly as I can, and you guys will be out of here.”

While writing the girls up, Tye explained what went into picking which citations to give.
“They gave the fake IDs, but then they told us shortly after that that they were under 21, so he wrote them the lower tickets,” Tye said.

The girls could have kept up their spiel, Tye said, but would have faced a larger ticket.
“Lying to the police is a $400 ticket by itself,” he said.

11:54 p.m.: Taking them down one at a time

“Hi, ladies, can I see your IDs?” Favour said to a table near the front of Bull Feathers.
After looking over their IDs, Favour knew he had them.

“The picture doesn’t really look like you,” he said. “What can you tell me about Woodbury, Minnesota? What’s the area code there?”

After shrugging her shoulders, the girl, 20 — not 21 — knew she was caught.

Outside, Favour and Tye discussed what they look for in differentiating a fake from a real ID while shuffling through their recent catches.

“This is obviously a pretty crappy ID,” Favour said of the first girl they busted. “And this one is a real ID, but it’s not hers. I asked a couple of questions you would probably know if you lived there. I don’t necessarily know the answers, but if the other person gives you that dumbfounded look then you kind of know they don’t live there either.”

Favour also said expired IDs are a dead giveaway.

“The bar shouldn’t accept expired IDs, because 99.9 percent of the time they are fake,” Favour said. “If it is expired maybe a month, then I would understand, but this one is expired in ’99. Give me a break! The picture doesn’t even look like her.”

After making a quick stop at Stillwaters, 250 State St., the officers headed to the Plaza Tavern and Grill, 319 N. Henry St., in what would be their final bar check before the calls started coming in.

The victim at the Plaza was unable to escape the officers before they came tapping on her shoulder. As with the other cases, the girl complied and was given the lesser of the tickets.

“If somebody is cooperative with us like she was, we will try and give them the softest ticket we can,” Favour said. “If somebody gives us a really hard time as far as sticking to their story and making us work to find out how old they are when we already know they’re underage, then they’ll tend to get a bigger ticket.”


12:32 a.m.: Dropping objects, loud music and underage drinking
don’t mix

With bar time approaching, the calls started coming in. Just a block from the Plaza, an anonymous phone call reported objects being dropped from the balcony of the apartment building above Verizon Wireless on Gilman Street. Tye and Favour scoped out the scene from the park across the street before rushing in to dissolve the party, which could be heard a block away.

“Generally we don’t go to house parties unless we get a complaint,” Favour said. “There’s just so many of them, and if people keep their parties under control, we’re not going to show up.”

After opening the door with a skeleton key, the officers took the stairs, passing hordes of people coming and going from the building.

After confusion, the party’s host made her way out into the hallway.

“We got called in by a complaint of people dropping stuff off the balcony,” Favour explained to her above the noise of music and loud-talking party-goers. “This party is out of control, and it is going to stop now.”

Favour told her he would not ticket her for noise violations or the number of underage drinkers (which would cost her $333 each, he told her) if she broke up the party immediately.

The girl and her friends resisted, demanding first that it was their right to hold a party and second that they saw nothing dropping from the balcony.

“I already made my deal,” Favour said forcefully. “Either you follow what I said, or I will start writing tickets.”

The girl complied, and by 12:45 a.m. the building was quiet.

“She’s upset, but she didn’t get a ticket,” he said. “And we got to accomplish our objective.”

Outside, Favour and Tye expressed disbelief in how out-of-control house parties can get.

“If they knew who was coming to the party, they would never get busted by us,” Favour said.

Otherwise, he said, they are basically running an illegal bar.

12:50 a.m.: A thin line between escape and jail

The officers were off again, this time to Riley’s Wines of the World, 402 W. Gorham St. Fellow downtown officer Chad Joswiak had pulled a man over for running a stop sign and was worried he had been drinking too much.

After taking three sobriety tests — the horizontal gaze nystagmos, in which a light is shone in the eyes to test for involuntary eye movement, walking a straight line (the man forgot to pivot at the end of the first nine steps and was not able to make it back to the beginning while walking backward) and standing on one leg for a certain amount of time (he fell in five seconds or less) — the man was put in the police car and taken to the station for further testing.

“[Joswiak] ran the Standardized Field Sobriety Testing, a course of instruction through the state of Wisconsin as part of the academy training we do, and he failed them,” Favour said. “Based on that, we put him under arrest.”

Favour estimated that upwards of 50 percent of drivers at this time on a Friday or Saturday night are under the influence, a high number considering the dangers of driving drunk.

1:10: You fight, we write

After the officers stifled a brief struggle in front of LaBamba Restaurant, 449 State St., a fight between two girls broke out just around the corner on State Street.

Upon our arrival, one girl was cursing and holding an injured hand, while a man who decided to step in and break up the fight was carrying the other girl away.

The fight was a verbal fight which escalated into a fist-throwing rampage, and both girls were cited.
“Generally, it’s our unwritten rule called ‘You fight, we write,'” Favour explained.

It wasn’t the last time this rule was put into force, as bar time was just around the corner.

But first it was time for a quick bathroom break in the Civic Center. At 1:30 a.m., Tye pulled the car up onto the sidewalk (his favorite part of being a police officer, he joked) and we trooped into the Civic Center. Soon after, we were on the road again.

1:39 a.m.: “When bar time comes, it kind of explodes”

“As soon as the weather gets warm, everything just goes nuts,” Favour said. “It will mellow out after people get used to [it], but the first two or three weekends are really tough.”

All the units were tied up citywide, and the calls were lining up.

“It’s too busy…. We can’t justify being in [bars] or at house parties right now,” Favour said. “We try and go in there early and clear out all the people that are going to get really hammered, but it’s impossible.”

From 1:47 a.m., when a call came in about a fight at Brothers, 704 University Ave., until well after bar time, the team, along with four or five other downtown police officers, were tied up at the corner of Lake Street and University Avenue, with fights on each corner.

The flashers were on as we raced to Brothers. Other officers had already arrived on the scene and were interviewing two men in their early 20s who had apparently been involved in a struggle.

One of the fighters was from Illinois and was taken into headquarters to pay his municipal citation.
“He was still issued the same citation, but because he’s from out of state, they’ll make him pay the ticket tonight,” Tye said.

As the officers wrapped up the scene, another struggle broke out across the street at Madhatter’s. A man there was taken into custody after employees at the bar complained he was causing trouble.
“We’re coming up on two o’clock and just look at the streets,” Favour said, pointing out the crowds on every corner. “And all these bars are still full. It’s insane. All these bars are full and everybody’s getting ready to spill onto the street. That’s why everybody fights — because everybody is drunk.”

Officers took control of the struggle outside Madhatter, 3 University Square, and the subject was cited for disorderly conduct.

“They say he threw some gang signs and threatened staff,” Favour said. “We’re here because we’re worried that something is going to happen. But he’s just going to get a ticket, and then he’s going to go home.”

As the scene wrapped up, chaos broke loose on the next corner, this time diagonally across from Brothers.

Two men were crossing the street with open beer bottles when police officers shouted at them to dump them out. The two men acted as though they could not hear the officers, lifted the bottles to their lips again and continued walking down the street. MPD officer Carlos Valentin and Tye rushed across the street, asking the two to put their bottles down. Only after Tye reached one of them did he drop his bottle, smashing it on the ground. But behind him, the second one continued to drink until Valentin approached him. What happened next was hard to see from across the street, but it appeared there was a struggle in which Valentin felt threatened by the belligerent bottle-holder, and with the aid of Tye, he brought the man down onto the sidewalk.

“My back was turned to the situation,” Tye said. “But basically Carlos was saying he asked the guy to drop the beer, he tried to get the beer away from him but the guy pulled away from Carlos, so Carlos was trying to put him up against the wall and get control of him.”

The man was cited for the incident but could have faced a stiffer penalty.

“If you start fighting with us, you’re going to get a ticket,” Tye said. “He could have gotten taken to jail for that, too.”

Before the scene had been cleared, a fight between two women broke out on the fourth corner of the intersection but never escalated into anything serious.

“We did stats about a year ago, and this corner is the one spot in the city of Madison you’re most likely to be the victim of a person’s crime,” Favour said. “It’s astronomically high because of all the alcohol and nonsense. It’s been that way for years — now as much as ever.”

With the four fights cleared and the fighters cited, we got back into the squad car.

“We just hit bar time, so now we should start having fights [on State Street],” Favour said, and we headed off.

2:44 a.m.: They just won’t quit

While the streets settled, the night was not over. After cruising for a few minutes, the lights were on again and it was back to University Square. Upon arrival though, the situation seemed to be under control. The man who had gotten in a fight with the staff at Madhatter had caused a little more trouble, but was now ready to go home with his brother. The seven officers who arrived at the scene let him go and went about their way. Before making it back to the car, though, we were back in front of Madhatter. The two men who got in the struggle with officers earlier were complaining they had been mistreated.

“You guys were yelling something from across the street and we couldn’t hear what you guys were saying,” said the friend of the man who had been tackled. “Then he grabbed him by the throat and slammed him against the fence.”

3:12 a.m.: Silence on the streets

By now the bars were empty, the fighting had ceased and we cruised around, waiting for another call, but it never came. After four and a half hours of police action, we were left conversing about the performance these guys put on each night.

“Mostly I feel it is a good job,” Favour said. “It pays well, it has good benefits, it’s fun and you get to talk to a lot of interesting people. It’s a fun job because you never know what’s going to happen from day to day.”

Asked about the struggle earlier in the evening, Tye blew it off as routine.

“You get trained on how to deal with that kind of stuff,” he said.

It is the job of the police to take instinctive actions during episodes such as the one across the street from Madhatter, mostly to defend themselves and anyone else in the vicinity. But the officers also want to make sure they are not hurting their suspects when fights break out.

“When we took that guy down on the ground, he was actually crying after that,” Tye said. “I asked him, ‘Are you OK? Is everything OK? You’re not hurt, are you?’ He said he wasn’t. A lot of times people just do dumb stuff when they’re drinking, and afterwards they’re fine.”

3:33 a.m.: Home again

The night wrapped up shortly after 3:30 a.m., and officers Favour and Tye dropped us off.

We had seen what we wanted, the controversies swarming underage drinking, and now we knew exactly what they had in mind when cutting young students down at the bars. House parties, a touchy subject after the recent death of a UW student who fell from a balcony, are also let go as long as nobody causes any trouble. And we got a glimpse of how active, how chaotic, and even how annoying it can be at bar time, when drunks take to the streets and claim them as their own.

Favour and Tye tended to be supportive of the kids they busted, giving them smaller tickets; they struck deals with a party host who had hundreds of people making noise, drinking underage and throwing objects from the roof onto State Street, all quite ticketable; and they did everything in their power, even risking their own safety, to keep aggression low at bar time. They did their jobs, by keep the nightlife vibrant — and keeping the rest of us safe.

— Sam Bakken contributed to this report. Photos by Sam Bakken

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