UWPD Completes Administrative Review of Graffiti Arrest Case

An administrative review is complete, following the spring 2016 arrest of Denzel McDonald – a suspect the UW-Madison Police Department had been investigating for repeated graffiti incidents on the UW-Madison campus. The incidents had occurred between October 24, 2015 and April 13, 2016.

At approximately 11:30 a.m. on April 14, 2016, two UWPD officers entered a classroom and made contact with Mr. McDonald to question him about the graffiti incidents. Officers had tried to make contact with Mr. McDonald several times over a two week time frame and were unsuccessful. At the time, based on their observations of the classroom, the officers did not believe a class was actively in session. The officers questioned Mr. McDonald outside of the classroom and then outside of the building. Eventually, Mr. McDonald was arrested on 11 criminal counts of graffiti and one count of disorderly conduct for threatening a bystander.

The decision to enter the classroom resulted in concern within the university community because this was not a common practice. At issue was whether or not the arrest and the method of arrest had been appropriate. Former Chief Susan Riseling immediately ordered an administrative review of the officer’s actions and department policies.

The administrative review concluded that the two officers involved, Officer Matt Schirmacher and Officer Justin Zurbuchen, acted within their authorities and within the current policies of the UW-Madison Police Department. However, the review offered several recommendations – all of which the UW-Madison Police Department has adopted:

  • The department develops a procedure and accompanying training regarding entering classes to make arrests (view the policy here).
  • The department assures that officers are required to brief supervisors and command staff before any planned arrest from a classroom.
  • The department revises the training process to ensure the exposure of staff in training to the day shift and the afternoon/night shift.
  • The department train Officers Schirmacher and Zurbuchen to call for a police supervisor in situations where an issue is likely to benefit from supervisory intervention.

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