Homeless Issues Committee gets a pretty bizarre explanation of what happened. A tale of two very different realities. This is just a part of the 3.5 hour meeting where Joe Parisi appeared and then a 1.5 hour impromptu meeting occurred in the hallway with him. Meanwhile, this is what the Homeless Issues Committee was hearing. It was item number 4 on their agenda entitled “Discussion about relocating campsite from Lake View Hill”
Mike Basford, the chair of the (City-County) Homeless Issues Committee asks the Sheriff to explain his version of the events that happened.
The sheriff, David Mahoney, says that once the encampment moved to Lake View Hill Park there were discussions about who the primary law enforcement would be. It was a county park but in the city of the Madison. At Lake View Park they had responded to calls for service in working with the homeless who were camping there. It was made clear the city would not do that and it was the county’s responsibility, they met with Human Services, Parks and the County Executive to talk about their responsibility and his position was that they were not going to be the police force there, their responsibility was safety and security to assist other Dane County Department. During the entire Occupy, there were three occasions they were present. The first was Thursday prior to the last county board meeting, there were two plain clothed officers who went there, after the parks and human services staff notifying folks that there was no camping and they could not be in the park after 10pm. They notified people that they could not be in the parks after 10pm. The following Sunday they were requested to stand by and we sent 5 deputies down and they stood by as tickets were issued by the Parks Department. One arrest was made for an individual who had an outstanding warrant and that individual was taken to jail. Subsequent to that, there was a meeting that they were going to remove them and the discussion was that we needed to make sure that if in fact property was going to be removed that as much care be taken to gather the property as possible, he won’t speak for Kevin Connors, but it was a discussion to utilize a park to allow all that property to be gathered in one item, the deputies did not gather the property, they didn’t touch the property, they stood there to preserve the peace. There has been some discussion by the neighbors, and I attended the listening session at Lakeview Hill, about the numbers of deputies that showed up, there were over 30 deputies and immediately upon finding that there was no problem 12 to 15 remained resting, open palmed and once the items were gathered they continued to Token Creek Park, they used community deputies, one lieutenant who stood by to preserve the peace. Since them he attended the north side meeting and listened to valid concerns and last Wednesday he went out himself and sat down with the encampment at Token Creek Park to listen to their concerns and need and relayed those needs to those who needed to know and he met later that night with several advocates in the community so that is where we are at today. Every day our patrol deputies have been asked to stop by to ensure safety and security and that life and safety issues are addressed and that is what they are doing with the understanding that calls for service take priority, but three times a day deputies stop by the camp. That has been their extent.
County Board Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner says she appreciates him going to listen and for coming tonight, but why was the stuff brought out to Token Creek?
It was not his decision.
Wegleitner asked how much interaction his deputies have with unsheltered people, Captain Gloede in Madison has a history of positive interaction, do the deputies have that same kind of rapport.
Sheriff says in some areas they do deal with it, also they deal with people who go to jail from the City of Madison, he says during the movement knew several of the deputies. Do we deal with the level of homelessness the City of Madison does, no, because we don’t have the services in rural Dane County, the need is to be downtown where the services are, where the temp employment, shelters and other services are. We dealt with them at the capital as well.
County Board Supervisor Scott McDonell says he is confused about who is in control of the county park, it should be the City of Madison, right?
Sheriff says that the City of Madison will answer 911 calls for service, criminal calls for service. As it related to the Occupy and the ordinance violations and removal, they were not going to respond to that. He says he has county jurisdiction.
McDonell says that he can remove the City as police, but you wouldn’t do that. It seems you should talk and it seems strange you should have to discuss who is going to provide service.
Sheriff says that he talked with Chief Wray and just said that they were going to do what they need to do.
Citizen members Uly Williams says it wasn’t your call to take the property to Token Creek.
No we did not bundle up the property and take it there.
Who’s decision was it?
That was the park that was identified where they would do winter camping and parks, backed up by deputies, took it out there.
County Board Supervisor Nick Zweifel says that they heard about documenting the possessions and going through their stuff, I know you didn’t do it, but if we didn’t have a warrant but someone was going through their stuff you could have stepped in and said that was wrong, can you clear up if anything was done wrong when they inventoried their belongings. That seems to be a gray area.
Sheriff says that the deputies were there for safety and security and it was discussed on what would occur once the property was picked up and moved to Token Creek. Kevin can discuss that, the property was inventoried, to make sure the property to make sure the property was gathered was returned and once the decision was made to remove the property, to protect the county from claims, as you know the number of claims that we get, it was an attempt to protect the county from undue claims. It was made abundantly clear, that they were not concerned about what was in the property, no one was arrested, and I don’t think any contraband was discovered.
Wegleitner says she is relived to hear that half the deputies left, but they did surround the park, that sounds resource intensive and how were people approached, this group had a history of 27 moves from city and county property and it seems like if this group thought they were in a situation where they would be kicked out, they would have done so without all this rigamarole. I know they got a letter with capital letters telling them they had to leave, but once it became time to carry out the removal was there an attempt for them to leave voluntarily and put their things close for them to recover at that point and time.
Sheriff says that he didn’t pick the spot. He made it clear to his staff that they would not make an ultimatum, I wasn’t going to walk up to someone and say you’re leaving or we are going to do this. I know we told them they couldn’t be there on behalf of the parks, but that was the extent of our involvement in pressing the issue that they had to move.
So what time was the removal effectuated.
About 7am (NO! It was 8am)
Weglietner asked if the park was closed then.
Sheriff says “to camping”
Wegleitner says she appreciates the attention to the removal of the property, but they did have some issues with the City Police and this committee did ask for information about compliance with Wisconsin Statutes in found property and the Library Director was the only one to respond, do you have policies to deal with the property.
Sheriff says they do, in regards to retaining the property. Yes, you can’t just throw the property out, it complies with Statute.
Wegleitner asks about victims of crimes and people in sensitive situation, do you have training in trauma informed care.
Yes we do.
How often in that.
Not yearly. We do in-service training 4 times a year, and they rotate and the mandatory trainings are in there.
County Board Supervisor Leland Pan says that he apologizes for missing Parisi’s presentation, but it sounds like you are saying you didn’t make some of the decisions so who is ultimately responsible for executing this operation.
Sheriff says this is a county park, so they were there to assist the Parks Department, to issue citations or make decisions about enforcement or not enforcement.
Pan asks if it was Parks that decided they needed 30 officers.
No, nobody makes that decision but the sheriff.
Were they paid over time.
A number were on duty, others were off duty.
Do you have any idea of what the operation cost.
I don’t have that number for you.
City Council Larry Palm says he doesn’t want to make this a city vs county thing, but earlier you alluded to deputies outside the area – what services are outside that deputies point them to. Seems like we could be doing more to help, even on the periphery of Madison.
Sheriff says they work with Human Services, social workers, there are satellite offices in the areas, churches, private services. Primarily they work with human services.
But we primarily work with people where they are.
Wegleitner asks if they can get the numbers on the costs for the next meeting.
Sheriff says yes, asks when the next meeting is.
Williams asks about one person who still doesn’t have his stuff. He heard that they weren’t even allowed to touch their stuff during the event. Could that have been handled better. Instead of having to go to Token Creek, could they have picked up their own stuff and take it out of the park or was it always the plan to take it to Token Creek.
Sheriff says it was taken to Token Creek because that is where it is legal to camp, but he didn’t make the decision, he is not here to represent multiple departments, he should ask the Parks Department. Sheriff says as it relates to property, he says that he doesn’t know if it is stored some where.
Williams says that he was at the camp, but he can’t get out to Token Creek to get his stuff. It’s not a lot, but its his and they have been living without it.
Sheriff says he doesn’t disagree.
Committee Member Sofia Martinez asks if Token Creek is the Sheriff Department area.
Sheriff says yes. That is their patrol jurisdiction.
Deedra Atkinson from United Way asks if they are trained ??? (sorry, couldn’t hear what she said, listened several times)
Sheriff says yes, primarily the community officers are.
Atkinson says that the next question is out of line, but this man over here is very sick and is there any way you can transport him to the hospital tonight. (Guy has been coughing the whole meeting, along with others)
Sheriff says yes.
Man says he is not that ill.
She says, I’m sorry, you have been coughing and coughing and you sound like you are really sick and I’d like to see you get some care.
Wegleitner asks also to get the found property policy. She says he should have a email on it.
Sheriff says it is on line, it should be easy to find. He says all their policies are on-line.
Sheriff talks to the coughing guy and says that if he comes with him he can take him to see a nurse. The guy says he is fine, he is seeing someone tomorrow.
Weglietner is in the chair and thanks Kevin Connors, the head of Land and Water Resources, where the Parks Department is located is thanked and she reviews the questions for him. Use of excessive force, lack of two way communication and resources used. She also wants to know why things were taken to Token Creek if there was no agreement to go there.
Connors says when they first heard about it was late in the day there was one staff person who was leaving and it was the end of the day, the on duty ranger was instructed to go out the next day and inform them that it was illegal to camp there, that ranger notified or identified the fact that no camping was allowed and that they were trespassing after 10pm and that there was no camping without a permit and informed them that citations could be issued and repeated that on Sunday. They and human services communicated on Sunday and Monday about the county ordinance violations. The parks system has 33 parks and natural resource areas and 2.3M visitors a year and the rules apply to everyone for all county facilities and there is no authorized camping without permits and the only campground open in the winter is Brigham County Park, it is set up, but it is not an improved camp site. The others are shut down because water supplies would freeze because they are not winterized, they would have broken pipes all over the place and they shut them all down. As far as the use of force, as the sheriff indicated, they did not use any force, they were charged with collecting possessions in the encampment and making sure that it is inventoried to be returned to the owner, that is their policy when they find abandoned property, and when they find tents they inventory it until they come and claim it.
Wegleitner says that the property was not abandoned. We knew who’s possessions they were.
That is correct, it is our practice and policy to do inventories in these kind of situations and we wanted to make sure everything was accounted for (I’m so confused, if they didn’t inventory it before they moved it, how do they know that what they inventoried was what they originally scooped up? And after it was inventoried and signed for, they scooped it up a second time and moved it again. Does that make any sense?) We used tarps to make sure it was transported together. The level of county resources, they were charged with collection and transport, they had 16 people and they were to make sure they were deliberate and cautious. They were in teams, they tried to respect the property. I missed a little.
Wegleitner asks if he was there when the decision to remove them was made at 7 am.
Connors says that he was. He was there that day.
Who approached the camp to say, hey, you gotta go.
Connors says the sheriff department went in first.
Weglietner says that the sheriff said that he didn’t want to make an ultimatum. She says that you presumably decided to take the property to Token Creek, but there was no agreement to go there, was there not a closer place.
Connors says that they were taken to Token Creek because it had been offered for several days and they had fire rings and a porta potty had been put there the weekend before. On Saturday morning one of the rangers even offered to transport their belongings to Token Creek.
Martinez asks why Token Creek, since so far away from the services that people need.
Connors says they have staff for maintenance and snow plowing. They have to plow it anyways and they have other activities there, also it had been offered previously.
Williams asks why they couldn’t just grab their own possessions instead of taking them out there.
Connors says there were van rides arranged for people to get out there and if they didn’t want to stay they would be brought back downtown. However, no one took them up on the ride.
Zweifel says that he knows that they went in for removal, but why didn’t they offer an opportunity to pack up and leave or if they didn’t then they would pack it up and give them a van ride. Why were they not given the option to say were are here and sheriff is here and if you start visibly packing up stuff we will leave you alone but if you refuse to move, we will pack it up and take it. Especially when the people were there.
Connors says that when his staff came on site there was no one there, so that is why they did what they did. It was the plan.
Wegleitner says that was not here understanding, that people were there.
Connors says he doesn’t know, he wasn’t there.
Williams asks again, why couldn’t they take their stuff. What you say is totally different than the people who were out there said.
Connors says that their sheriff was there for security and when his staff was present there were no people there.
Williams says he is confused now. Where were the campers.
Connors says “I can’t answer that.”
Wegleitner says that they heard that Lake Farm is “incompatable” can you explain why.
Connors says it is a heavily used winter and recreation area. Lussier Center is there and it is 84% used and there is little staff and safety and security is an issue.
Martinez asks why security is an issue.
Connors says because of the hours it is open and how it is staffed in the winter.
Martinez asks why they can’t just cooperate with the police department and have them patrol the park.
Connors says that they only have one ranger on duty per day.
Martinez says “but you can afford 16 people to come and take their possessions without a dialog”?
Connors says there was a significant amount of dialog and communication prior to removal starting on Sunday morning, he says a lot of dialog was had to come up with common ground to provide alternatives.
Wegleitner says it might interfere with some recreational use, but also the security of the building, but not events or rental business, is that what you are saying.
Connors says that they have 84% occupancy for events, they rent it out for weedings and 84% of the time it is available it is rented out for weddings and parties and meetings, that is how they keep the lights on.
Wegleitner asks what if there is a blizzard, will we be able to reach them, if we have extreme weather it seems like there is some risk, can you comment on our ability to make sure people get to a safe area.
The sheriff says that there is a road system around the camp ground, he doesn’t know if it is all plowed, but if endangering weather happens, we as a county will need to take whatever measures necessary to move them to a sheltered area.
Connors says that one of the benefits is that the road that serves the campground is plowed for the dog park and other winter activities and they have a snow plow going there and they can maintain access.
Wegleitner asks about their policies on found property and the costs associated with the removal.
He says he will get that to them.
Weglietner asks if there is any way to get them water.
Connors says that all the camp grounds are not winterized and it would all freeze, he says they drain the pipes in the winter so they don’t freeze.
Wegleiter has a very pained look on her face and asks, is there any other way?
Lynn Green, Department of Human Services says she can work on donations and stuff to see what is out there, like they did for the warming center.
Williams goes back again to ask, what happened to the campers, he asks the sheriff because according to Connors there was no one there.
Sheriff says that they reached out the the Lutheran Church to use it as a shelter but the deputies went over to the church.
Willaims asks the sheriff to get back to him about why people couldn’t just take their possessions.
Sheriff says he will do his best.
At some point, he says that they will get the after action report to the group.
And now for something completely different.
Several people spoke, but I think Rich summed it up best.
Rich says that the record needs to be straight on what happened at Northport and Lake View Park. There were campers in camp when the deputies entered. He was personally one of them. They came through the trailway from Drewry St, there were several of us there, they told us we were not allowed to touch our stuff, we were told not to touch our camping gear and we were told to leave the park. The deputies that left the camp didn’t leave, they were posted like sentries around the entire park. The fact that they left if a fallacy. They then brought in the dump truck to throw our stuff in, that was a message in and of itself. It wasn’t a dump truck, it was a garbage truck. You are going to take everything that is our personal belongings and the communal property and throw it in a garbage truck. WE get out to Token Creek and they tell us we have from 10 – noon to get our stuff. We get there, the minute we get there they are going through everything that is our personal belongings. There is not reason they need to inventory our personal belongings. It was a search for whatever it was a search for. The parks department were members of their team that were extremely rude. Very confrontational and combative, when they got asked questions they got hostile. When asked to give us our belongings, they reiterated that they needed to inventory and communication completely broke down until some of the deputies stepped in to try to get us our stuff. They wanted to get us our stuff. They gave us a bunch of crap about our communal property that doesn’t belong to anyone, the whole camp uses it. They dicked around with everything so long that we didn’t have enough time to get set up before dark and when we woke up in the morning about 80%of our stuff was wet from the dew and the mist. Last time he checked whether I am homeless or not I am still a human being and its unexcusable to treat people that way. Everyone tells us how hostile they think we are and how hostile the camp is, not anyone in the camp has storm trooped into another persons home and taken their things and thrown it in a garbage truck and searched through their things and tell them they can’t have what belongs to them. There is no excuse for that treatment, none what so ever.
Additional information and pictures of what happened that day in this blog post here.
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