MADISON, Wis. — The police chief in Wisconsin's capital city vented his frustration with black protesters Monday, writing that he's sick of his officers getting blamed for "everything from male pattern baldness to global warming."
Tension between blacks and police has been high in many U.S. communities because of the high-profile killings of black men by white officers, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Eric Garner in New York City and Dontre Hamilton in Milwaukee. A gunman who claimed he was retaliating for Brown and Garner's deaths shot and killed two New York officers last month.
A group called the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition has been staging occasional rallies in Madison to protest the deaths and funding for a new Dane County jail, marching in the streets and disrupting traffic. On Friday, the group sent Madison Police Chief Michael Koval a letter calling for the release of 350 black people from the Dane County jail. The group also demanded that police stay out of black neighborhoods, calling the department an occupying force.
"The relationship that we desire to have with police is simple: no interaction," the group wrote.
Koval, who is white, responded with a lengthy blog post on Monday. He wrote that officers have done their best to protect the group's free-speech rights during its protests, but that the group's ultimatums "are beyond the pale" and that he doesn't buy into the argument that Madison's racial issues are emblematic of systemic bias within his agency.
"In fact, I'm fed up with my Department being blamed for everything from male pattern baldness to global warming. It is time for Young, Gifted and Black to look a lot deeper at the issues besetting our people of color and stop pandering to the 'blame game' of throwing my Department to the wolves," he wrote. "I'm done with allowing this kind of rhetoric to go unchallenged."
He called the group's demand for police to stay out of black neighborhoods untenable and questioned whether the group really wants the police to ignore calls for help. Rather than leaving black people alone, he promised officers would interact with them more in an an effort to build relationships.
"You would have us ignore and dismiss the rights of the neighbors who are complainants, witnesses and victims?" he wrote. "Are you really advocating that the police abdicate our responsibilities to these folks?"
Koval added that he's not afraid to speak his mind.
"Perhaps others in Madison are afraid to violate the rules of political correctness and say what I am saying (including the media). I cannot control the public debate, but I will not stay silent," he wrote. "I am 56 years old, this is my last job, and I am calling you out as a group (I guess it's a good thing that I don't run for public office and can say what I mean and mean what I say)."
The Young, Gifted and Black Coalition responded to an email sent to its general mailbox seeking comment that the group would discuss how to respond at a meeting Monday evening and would comment on Tuesday.