Right? See you on the steps of the City-County building today at 4:30?
Ok, so yesterday morning I got a call from a friend who was hanging out at the Bethel Homeless Program. My friend told me that there were half a dozen people there who had just had all their belongings thrown out by “Officer Jeff” who called the city garbage removal people. Another homeless person he knew saw the whole thing happen. They lost everything. So, they were at Bethel getting sleeping bags and clothes and other things. Bethel was able to get them things because of Tami Miller’s Feeding the State St. Family program. (Note: Neither of these programs are funded by city or county or state funds, its just people who feel compelled to do the right thing, mostly with their own money and time.)
I went over there for a different reason and met some of the folks, they told me that a few weeks ago someone put a sticker on their belongings and then later they were told that they had to move their things 5 feet from the building (Veteran’s Museum) but then they hadn’t heard anything in the last few weeks.
Here’s is one of the volunteer’s account of what happened:
MADISON POLICE DESTROY CLOTHING, MEDS, SLEEPING BAGS AND MORE OF THE HOMELESS ON STATE STREET!
This week’s “HEART OF STONE AWARD” goes to OFFICER JEFF and THE MADISON POLICE DEPARTMENT, for confiscating and throwing away into a Madison City Garbage Truck the belongings (clothing & meds), back packs, duffel bags and sleeping bags of 5 Madison homeless individuals this morning at approximately 9:30am at the head of State Street, adjacent to the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.
Three of those homeless individuals were at Meriter Hospital at the time of this police action, where one of them (I’ll call him “John”), was recovering from a medical procedure he had performed on him earlier this morning to test for possible cancer or ulcers. The other two, his friends, were there at Meriter to provide support before and after “John” had the medical procedure done.
I was there when “John” came out of the procedure, as I promised “John” I would be several days ago, to provide him with transportation from Meriter to where ever he wanted to go after the procedure, so he wouldn’t be walking around while he was coming out of the procedure medication.
This disheartening action on the part of “OFFICER JEFF” of the Madison Police Dept. of destroying the belongings of the homeless, including their sleeping bags none of which was over a week and a half old, and keeps those individuals from freezing to death each night, shows a complete lack of compassion on his part, and by association, the Madison Police Department. Instead of trying to help the homeless on Madison Streets, you harass them, and destroy their property and their means to survive in the cold weather. SHAME ON YOU, OFFICE JEFF and the MADISON POLICE DEPARTMENT!!!
Also from facebook – one of the people who lost their belongings is a pregnant woman who is out of days at the shelter. I saw her yesterday, didn’t realize she was one of the people affected. This makes me sick knowing what I know about the last pregnant woman who was homeless that I met . . . more on that another day . . . all I can say is watch out for homeless outreach workers and child protective services. There has to be a better way to get services for newborn babies and their families that are homeless.
Back on track, “Officer Jeff” is Jeff Pharo, the State St. Neighborhood Officer. Yeah, the person who’s supposed to be the “good cop”. The outreach person for the neighborhood that is supposed to gain the trust of people in the community. FAIL!
WHAT DOES THE CITY SAY
Anyways, I emailed Police Chief Noble Wray, City Attorney Michael May and the Mayor. Later I added Jeff Pharo, the neighborhood officer involved and now the Parks Department Director Kevin Briski (I’ll explain in a minute).
from: Brenda Konkel firstname.lastname@example.org
to: “Wray, Noble”
date: Wed, Oct 10, 2012 at 10:55 AM
subject: Come on guys! Follow the law!
One of my homeless friends just called and told me that Jeff, the State St. officer just called the maintenance workers/garbage pick up people on State Street and he had them come and pick up 5 or 6 people’s belongings at the top of State St. in Veterans Plaza and all their belongings were thrown away. This happened about a half an hour ago. I asked one guy to get the names of the people who had their items thrown away, but I’m not sure what I will get.
I thought by now we all knew that there was a state law that required property found on public property to be kept for a certain amount of days and that you couldn’t throw away their belongings.
To Chief Wray’s credit, he got back to me REALLY quickly. Like, within about an hour he was looking into it and soon after, this:
from: Wray, Noble NWray@cityofmadison.com
to: Brenda Konkel
cc: “Gloede, Carl”
date: Wed, Oct 10, 2012 at 12:43 PM
subject: RE: Come on guys! Follow the law!
I was briefed by Central District staff and they have done the following:
1.) They have been proactive in educating people on proper storage of personal belonging on public spaces
2.) Some of the belongings referred to in the e-mail below had been there for several days as early as last week
3.) The neighborhood officer has made several attempts to determine who the property belong to even asking many of the homeless people in the area
4.) The property is also in close proximity to a waste receptacle
5.) The belongings were wet from last night’s rain and gave even more of an appearance that it had been abandoned
THE STATE LAW
When I was an alder I had the city attorney draft a law that would have required the police and others to put notices on the property and then leave a sign where they took the information from and then hold on to the property for 45 days. They city attorney discovered that the state law requires them to hold it for 90 days! That was the year I lost my election by 64 votes partially because I was standing up for the homeless and it was unpopular. Marsha Rummel and Shiva Bidar-Sielaf took on the ordinance after I wasn’t on the council. The ordinance never got passed. But the state law is still on the books!
So, I asked:
from: Brenda Konkel email@example.com
to: “Wray, Noble”
cc: “May, Michael”
date: Wed, Oct 10, 2012 at 2:04 PM
subject: Re: Come on guys! Follow the law!
I’m confused, how does that comply with this Wisconsin Statute?
170.105 Chattels found by public officials, employees or agents.
(1) Notwithstanding ss. 170.07 and 170.08, if an official, employee or agent of the state or of a county, city, village or town finds $25 or more or any goods having a value of at least $25 while acting within the scope of his or her official duties, employment or agency, he or she shall transfer custody of the found money or goods to the agency in the city, village or town where the money or goods were found that is designated by the city, village or town governing body to receive found money or goods. That agency shall post a notice of the found money or goods in 2 public places in the city, village or town.
(2) If the owner of lost money or goods appears within 90 days after the notice is posted under sub. (1) and makes out his or her right to the found money or goods, he or she shall have restitution of the money or goods or the value of the money or goods upon paying all of the costs and charges on the money or goods. If no owner of lost money or goods appears within 90 days after the notice is posted under sub. (1), the found money or goods become the property of the state or county, city, village or town whose official, employee or agent found the lost money or goods.
I didn’t get a response to this one, but its been a short amount of time.
ALDERS HELP OUT
I emailed the alders who took on the sponsorship of that ordinance to let them know what was going on, along with Lisa Subeck.
from: Brenda Konkel firstname.lastname@example.org
to: “Bidar-Sielaff, Shiva”
date: Wed, Oct 10, 2012 at 2:25 PM
subject: ahem, a little help please . . .
So, remember when . . . I had an ordinance change that said that the police and parks and others could not throw out people’s belongings?! Today, at least 5 (I have their names and contact info) and possibly up to 8 people had their belongings thrown out. And from what I’m hearing, it is still happening all over the city. This has to stop! Today, we got new sleeping bags and clothes for several of them through Tami (Feeding the State St. Family) and Bethel Homeless Program, but this is the kind of thing that sets people back repeatedly if there aren’t folks around to help. Non-city funded programs I might add! Luckily, these folks, know folks who can help, but not everyone does.
Anyways, I can forward the old ordinance, at least the last copy I had – if interested. Bottom line is tho, a state law is in place and the police should follow it.
And they are asking the same questions.
I received the following email from Brenda Konkel, and I am concerned that the police department is throwing out people’s belongings. I believe a city-level charter ordinance was proposed a few years ago that would have more clearly stated what appears to already be state law by eliminating the judgement call made as to whether or not property is abandoned. I believe this may be the ordinance Brenda references, though there may have been something else I don’t rememeber. I understand that ordinance did not pass but recall extensive discussions around our practices.
I am very concerned that we are simply throwing out people’s property without any sort of notice. Not only does this appear to be a violation of the state statutes guiding disposal of property, but it also seems more than a little inhumane. I suspect that if the property appeared to be a student’s backpack containing books and other materials, a briefcase full of important-looking papers, or a purse, we would not act so quickly to dispose of it. However, when it comes to property that appears to sleeping bags and other items apparently belonging to a person who is homeless, we do not store and attempt to locate the owner of the property.
What can we do to rectify this situation and ensure that any resident’s property, be it someone without a home outside of the Veterans’ Museum or a theater-goer outside of the Overture Center, is treated with respect and care?
District 1 Alder
I agree with Lisa and Brenda that we should rectify this situation and figure out a way to follow state law.
Chief- let’s add this topic to my list for our meeting.
All- I’ve been thinking we need what I’ve started to call an outdoor housing strategy and have been gathering data for a meeting later this month with MPD on 10/26 in the council office at 10a. Let me know if you would like to attend.
Dear Chief Wray,
I also look forward to hearing back from you on the issues raised below.
Hopefully the police or parks or city attorney will respond. A reporter who was looking into it said the Police were saying that the Mall Concourse people are from the Parks Department and that they should talk to them. The Parks Department is saying that the reporter should talk to the police. Hopefully, someone will respond to the alders.
TODAY AT 4:30
From facebook, not sure if this is official or not, but I plan on going but so are others.
I’d like EVERYONE who’s interested to meet me on the steps of the city county building on MLK tomorrow afternoon at 4:30. I’d like answers from the mayor’s office and police department as to why they threw away all the worldly belongings of 5 homeless citizens at the Veteran’s Museum this morning at 9:30. A city garbage truck pulled up and Officer Jeff tossed everything into it. Please invite your friends and neighbors. I will call the mayor’s office in the morning as well as Noble Wray.
Mayor’s office – 266-4611 or email@example.com
Chief Wray – firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Briski – email@example.com
And watch Feeding the State St. Family group on Facebook for a list of items that people need. Tami is awesome at helping people get their needs met on the streets when government funded programs fail (because they don’t have enough funds!)
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