The University of Wisconsin Police Department spent upwards of 6,500 dollars on items like high-volume pepper spray, smoke grenades and more in the early summer for potential use at Black Lives Matter protests, according to a previously-redacted UWPD purchase records report.
Back in late May and early June, BLM protests erupted in Madison following the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by police in Minneapolis. The protests lasted for several weeks in Madison, and during the first few nights, police deployed tear gas and pepper spray against protesters.
UWPD supported the Madison Police Department at these protests, helping deploy pepper spray, UWPD Public Information Officer Marc Lovicott confirmed with The Badger Herald this fall.
The previously-redacted items UWPD bought between May 29 and July 13 includes $2,086 on handguns June 9 — a routine expense to replenish their stock, according to the press release. Then on June 18, UWPD spent $4,999 on long-range, high-volume pepper spray,
UWPD spent $500 on Projecto Jet Refills, which are dispersal devices that allow officers to fire pepper spray farther. According to the release, they put in this order to replenish stock used on May 29 at a downtown protest and during training.
‘It’s hypocritical:’ Students respond to presence of campus police at Kenosha, Madison protestsAn open record request showed that a second University of Wisconsin-System campus in addition to UW-Madison sent university police to Read…
July 7, UWPD spent $1,070 on smoke grenades, which the release said they use to evaluate wind conditions to make sure their spray deployments hit their target rather than bystanders.
While released UWPD expense records for the summer previously included several redactions, UWPD Chief Kristen Roman said in a press release today UWPD felt obligated to release the full records after hearing community concerns.
“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,” Roman said. “There was no malicious intent or ulterior motives behind the department’s decision to redact this information.”
In recent weeks, UW student activists have advocated for defunding and reforming UWPD. Recently, the UW BIPOC Coalition and the Teaching Assistants’ Association held a “Cops off Campus” rally, in which students gathered to protest UWPD’s influence on campus.
Co-founder of the UW BIPOC Coalition Juliana Bennett said this report revealed hypocrisy within UWPD, whose mission statement includes keeping the UW community safe.
“This is another example why UWPD really doesn’t keep us safe,” Bennett said. “Does protecting and serving students include $5,000 worth of pepper spray? Is that really protecting students, or is it just militarizing?”
TAA , BIPOC Coalition march for racial justice and dismantling of UWPDThe University of Wisconsin’s Teaching Assistants’ Association and the UW Black and Indigenous People of Color Coalition held a march Read…
UWPD recently launched a Racial Equity Initiative which includes policy reform recommendations in line with the national 8 Can’t Wait campaign, bias training for officers, diverse hiring efforts, an advisory council, data transparency and more.
UPDATE: This article was updated Oct. 16 at 6:06 p.m. with a quote from student activist Juliana Bennett.