On August 11, 2020, the UWPD Records Unit fulfilled an open records request made by an individual affiliated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the following information:
“Documentation of any purchases goods and services over $500 made by the UWPD from 5/29/20 to 7/13/20, specifically the dates of those purchases/expenses, the goods or services purchased, and the category of that expenditure in the operational budget.”
In subsequent weeks, this information was shared among various campus and community groups. Since that time, through meetings we have participated in, media coverage, and social media activity, we learned of concerns regarding several items that were redacted in purchasing-related documents included in the records release. To be clear, 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. There was no malicious intent or ulterior motives behind the department’s decision to redact this information. Nevertheless, it has become evident that an inordinate amount of attention has been paid to this concern, prompting us to reevaluate the balancing test that was originally applied to this request. A key motivation behind this decision is to avoid distracting from UWPD’s ongoing efforts to achieve the goals outlined in the department’s Racial Equity Initiative, a factor which ultimately outweighed any potential operational benefit of maintaining these redactions in this particular circumstance.
The individual who originally requested this document has been sent the original version without redactions. In addition, the redacted version of this document, along with the original version without redactions, can be viewed here:
The information provided below is meant to outline the purpose of each of the previously redacted items. In general, our inventory approach is to maintain enough equipment and supplies to conduct state-mandated training for each item and to be able to respond to various large scale critical incidents for a short period of time. Resupply for any prolonged incidents would require emergency requisitions from vendors and/or other governmental agencies via mutual aid requests, which could constrain an effective response. For these reasons, several of the items described below were purchased in amounts intended to adequately prepare for potential future incidents throughout the summer.
- “9mm handguns for officers, replenish stock” – As a matter of routine maintenance unrelated to the civil unrest earlier this summer, these firearms were purchased to replace existing firearms for which repair-related parts are no longer available.
- “100 irritant: MK-9 sabre red high volume 10% OC Stream” – These are pepper spray aerosol canisters that have a longer range and contain more volume than the small limited use canisters carried on an officer’s duty belt. Pepper spray in either form is intended for deployment in a limited and directed area to address dangerous and/or threatening behaviors. Based exclusively on illegal incident patterns—not lawful and peaceful protests—seen across the country and our own community, amounts purchased in this order were to replace expended supplies from 5/30/20 and to prepare for potential future incidents.
- “Protecto Jet refills” – These are long-range and high-volume pepper spray aerosol dispensing devices. They allow officers to direct pepper spray from greater distances to address dangerous and/or threatening behaviors. Amounts purchased in this order were to replenish supplies expended on 05/30/20 and to replenish supplies that had been expended at a previous training.
- “Grenade, pocket tactical cont. discharge smoke” – These are outdoor smoke grenades used to evaluate real-time wind conditions in the specific environment or location where pepper spray and/or other chemical agents may be used. The purpose of evaluating wind conditions is to ensure deployments are accurate and mitigate the potential impact on bystanders. Amounts purchased in this order were to replenish supplies expended at a previous training and to prepare for potential future incidents.
With that said, we hope this information provides clarity and closure with respect to this particular concern. As previously stated, UWPD remains focused and resolute in its commitment to the goals espoused as part of the Racial Equity Initiative. If you would like to learn more about how to get involved with the UWPD’s Racial Equity Initiative, you are encouraged to contact Dr. Louis Macias, Executive Director for Recruitment, Diversity, and Inclusion.
Like faculty members, administrators, and students, each UWPD staff member has a role to play in positively contributing to a safe and supportive environment for every member of our campus community. We look forward to continuing to cultivate the partnership and collaborative spirit needed to engage in this complex work on the path to achieving thoughtful, meaningful, and measurable change.