Morning State News Roundup: DA defends Brown Deer Police DepartmentWisconsin News
-- A dozen Wisconsin legislators are demanding an independent investigation of the Brown Deer Police Department, and its policies for dealing with domestic violence.
BROWN DEER - A dozen Wisconsin legislators are demanding an independent investigation of the Brown Deer Police Department, and its policies for dealing with domestic violence. But Milwaukee County’s chief prosecutor defends the department, saying it’s generally aggressive in dealing with domestic cases.
Ten Democrats and two Republicans called Police Chief Steve Rinzel to task yesterday. They said his officers let mass murderer Radcliffe Haughton off the hook in previous domestic incidents. Haughton killed his estranged wife and two others at a Brookfield spa 11 days ago before killing himself. The lawmakers, led by Assembly Democrat Terese Berceau of Madison, accused Brown Deer Police of not following the state’s mandatory arrest law on at least two occasions when they believed Haughton should have been taken in. Also, the legislators say the chief was wrong to blame the victim, when he said Zina Haughton did not cooperate with police in those cases. And they said the state needs to get involved because Brown Deer’s police commission has kept its distance. Village officials have not commented on the lawmakers’ concerns. Most criticism has involved a 2011 police standoff in which Haughton apparently pointed a gun at his wife. The standoff ended with no arrests. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said the case presents some “complicated questions.” In general, Chisholm said he’s impressed by the way Brown Deer Police investigate domestic violence complaints. Earlier this week, Chief Rinzel asked the state Justice Department to provide additional training to officers in handling domestic disturbances.
Today is the first anniversary of Wisconsin’s concealed weapons law – and the state’s attorney general says it’s working as well as expected. About 138,500 state carry permits were granted in the first year – 13,000 more than what J.B. Van Hollen predicted six months ago. Around 150-thousand people have applied for concealed weapons licenses, and Van Hollen said many of the ones rejected were for clerical errors. There were long delays at first in getting the applications processed. But the backlog has disappeared, and Van Hollen says the review process is now going smoothly. Wisconsin was the 49th state to allow concealed carry – and Van Hollen says the Badger State has not become the “Wild West” like opponents claimed it would be. The only high-profile shooting was in January in Milwaukee. A grocery shopper at Aldi’s with a concealed carry permit shot at two men who were trying to rob the store. The place had a sign banning concealed weapons, but prosecutors decided not to charge the shooter. Meanwhile, training standards for permit holders are still in limbo. The Justice Department is still using temporary rules that require weapons’ holders to get training – but they don’t spell out anything specific. State lawmakers are still considering tougher standards that require lessons on using deadly force, and the safe use of firearms-and-bullets. Lawmakers are expected to act on the new rules early next year.
It’s Day-One of a new Wisconsin law that prohibits young drivers from chatting on the phone while behind the wheel. Anyone with an instruction permit or a probationary license cannot use cell phones for any reason while driving – except to report an emergency. Fines for first-time violators are from $20-to-40. State Patrol Major Sandra Huxtable says the goal is to deter teens and other inexperienced drivers from talking on their phones while driving. She calls it a dangerous distraction. State law already prohibits texting behind-the-wheel for all drivers, regardless of age.
So far at least, Sandy has not given us higher gas prices. The superstorm temporarily shut down refineries on the East Coast – normally a trigger for price hikes at the pump. But Wisconsin’s Triple-“A” says unleaded regular actually went down almost a penny in the last day. The statewide average is now about 3.41-a-gallon – eight cents cheaper than a week ago, and 44-cents less than a month ago. In neighboring Minnesota, fuel prices are even lower, averaging around 3.25. Gail Weinholzer of Minnesota’s Triple-“A” says the lower fuel supplies have been off-set by a major drop in demand. A lot of it’s due to the storm’s aftermath in the heavily-populated Northeast. Weinholzer notes that there are 20-thousand fewer airline flights – and millions of Americans are not driving their cars in the wake of the storm damage.
If you want to help the relief efforts for Superstorm Sandy, Wisconsin consumer officials say to use your head as well as your heart. The Consumer Protection Bureau says criminals often use disasters to take advantage of people’s generosity. And officials say people should make sure the charities to which they donate are established and reputable. You can do that by checking with the Better Business Bureau. Also, state officials say you should never send cash – be cautious about telephone solicitations – and don’t respond to unsolicited e-mails, or click on their links or attachments. If the past is any indication, you’ll hear about volunteers stealing assistance that was meant for storm victims. In the days after Hurricane Katrina, at least one Wisconsinite was charged with stealing assistance cards that he volunteered to hand out at the Gulf Coast. The same thing happened in Milwaukee during the heavy floods in 2008.
The Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups says it is being targeted by the Walker administration. The coalition says it has lost $750,000 in federal funding distributed through the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. That is nearly half of its annual budget and has forced a reduction in its staff, from 30 to fewer than 15. Executive Director Nino Amato calls it “Chicago-style politics” when dealing with those who question Governor Walker’s policies. State officials deny any vendetta against the coalition.
Developers say there is still a lot of demand for apartments near the Wisconsin State Capitol. The Madison City Council gave unanimous approval last night to two major development projects. More than 430 apartments, 11 thousand square feet of retail space, another 19,000 square feet for offices and hundreds of parking spaces are coming to downtown Madison, including new offices for the Madison Fire Department. Buildings of up to 14 stories are a part of the plans for the Capitol West area.
Utility workers throughout Wisconsin have been heading east to help restore power to places hit by Superstorm Sandy. They’ll help clear fallen power lines, replace damaged poles, and rebuild power distribution systems. As of this morning, eight-million customers were in the dark in 17 states. We Energies restored power yesterday to around 500 customers hit by strong winds in eastern Wisconsin – and then 25 employees from that utility were sent to Detroit today to help 40-thousand homes get their juice back. From there, they’ll head further east. Wisconsin Power-and-Light of Madison expects about 30 of its workers to spend two weeks in upstate New York. Power-and-Light’s owner, Alliant Energy, says it’s a payback for the help it received in dealing with a major ice storm in 2007, and heavy flooding in 2008. Xcel Energy of Eau Claire sent eight employees out East. And a group of municipal utility workers is helping 100-thousand customers in Allentown Pennsylvania get their power back. Those utilities are in Sun Prairie, Stoughton, Oconomowoc, Cedarburg, Kaukauna, Menasha, Shawano, and Marshfield.
Lots of people donate money to colleges. But not many donate full-sized airplanes like the one that Fox Valley Technical College received yesterday. The college and the Outagamie County Airport near Appleton have been trying for 15 years to obtain an aircraft to provide emergency training. And Fed-Ex delivered, by donating an older Boeing 727 that’s seen its better days. For the technical college, it doesn’t matter if the plane can go another inch in the air. It will stay grounded so emergency personnel can get trained to handle on-board emergencies like fires, and medical and tactical situations. Fox Valley Technical officials say the aircraft will be a training destination for emergency personnel from northeast Wisconsin and around the nation. College president Susan May says it’s hard to simulate an airplane emergency – and the school is grateful for the Fed-Ex donation.
A Whitewater man was due in court today, after he was arrested at gunpoint for a domestic incident and a high-speed police chase. 40-year-old Larry Shannon has already been charged with a half-dozen traffic violations that include reckless endangerment. And authorities say he also faces criminal counts that include three counts each of attempted homicide and false imprisonment. Three people were hurt – two seriously – in the domestic incident, which occurred at a Whitewater home late Monday afternoon. Rock County sheriff’s deputies said several family members were involved in the disturbance. Two victims fled before officers arrived, and were taken to a Fort Atkinson hospital with serious injuries. Officials said a child also received cuts in the incident – and when it ended, Shannon took two children and fled. Officers spotted the vehicle near Beloit, and began a pursuit at speeds of up to 75-miles-an-hour. The chase ended when an officer drove into the side of Shannon’s car, forcing it to turn sideways and stop. Officials did not say whether the youngsters in the car were Shannon’s kids.