The University of Wisconsin Police Department replied to a tweet from UW’s student council chair claiming they’ve changed their stance on defunding the police from last Tuesday, inciting debate on Twitter.

Chair of the Associated Students of Madison Matthew Mitnick tweeted a link to a Letter to the Editor from the UW BIPOC Coalition and the Teaching Assistant Association appearing in The Badger Herald Tuesday morning, with a caption that included “@UWMadisonPolice needs to be defunded. And while we’re at it, let’s get them off campus entirely.”

The Badger Herald published the Letter to the Editor on Thursday, in which the TAA and the BIPOC Coalition said UWPD should be defunded because of wide-reaching student distrust in the department.

UWPD replied to Mitnick’s tweet with, “in our first two meetings with ASM leaders, @matthewmitnick_ told us more than once that it was not ASM’s aim to defund or abolish UWPD. This certainly goes against Matthew’s own stated position. [questioning emoji] #mixedmessages.”

Almost immediately, students, ASM members and other student organizations expressed their confusion and concern with the UWPD tweet by quote tweeting it. Some claimed UWPD appeared to be attacking Mitnick’s own personal beliefs and said singling out students shouldn’t be the role of their Twitter presence.

District 5 Dane County Supervisor and UW student Elena Haasl said the tweet was “an inappropriate display of power from the department.”

“UWPD has historically failed to comply with community demands regarding law enforcement and community safety, especially when it comes to the concerns of the most impacted and marginalized communities,” Haasl said. “Their actions continue to further fray their relationship and trust with the community.”

In a statement to the Herald, UWPD Director of Communications Marc Lovicott said while Mitnick is entitled to his own opinion, because of his position as ASM Chair, his opinion holds significant weight.

Lovicott said part of UWPD’s job is to curb false information pertaining to UWPD, so they felt it necessary to point out that Mitnick’s caption went against what he had previously expressed on behalf of ASM.

“Mitnick’s statement on Twitter today goes against everything he has previously told UWPD in prior meetings — he has stated multiple times previously that he and ASM have no plans to move forward with an effort to try and defund and/or abolish UWPD,” Lovicott said. “His statement today goes against those previous assurances — and our reply to him was to acknowledge that, and ensure the facts are in the public eye.”

Mitnick replied to UWPD confirming it wasn’t previously ASM’s stance at that meeting, and that the caption he wrote reflects his own personal view.

Mitnick called UWPD’s behavior “inexcusable” in a statement to the Herald.

“UWPD’s actions today on Twitter demonstrate why ASM originally issued a Vote of No Confidence in the department. UWPD’s behavior is inexcusable,” Mitnick said. “How can students feel comfortable sharing their experiences and opinions if this is how administration reacts?”

Mitnick, Haasl and District 8 Ald. Max Prestigiacomo co-signed a statement to Chancellor Rebecca Blank, condemning UWPD’s behavior and calling on the UW administration to reprimand those responsible. The statement pointed out UWPD’s tweet had been scheduled using TweetDeck, potentially meaning UWPD meditated over and scheduled the tweet in advance.

Their statement reasserted a set of demands for the administration.

ASM member Sam Jorudd, who introduced ASM’s vote of no-confidence in UWPD, said in a statement to the Herald the tweet “shocked” him.

“The fact that this is the social media presence that they want is disgusting, to say the least,” Jorudd said. “Students are getting attacked by whole institutions for their personal beliefs, personal beliefs that they didn’t act upon out of respect for the process.”