MADISON (WKOW) -- A Democratic lawmaker is blaming the new police chief for increasing tensions at the Capitol.
That's after published reports that he advised some legislative aides to hit people if they felt threatened.
While protests at the Capitol are not anywhere near the size they were more than a year ago, discussions about how to best handle safety at the Capitol continue.
The number of "Solidarity Singers" at the Capitol tripled on Tuesday compared to the past few weeks.
"The chief made a public statement yesterday I believe, and people responded to that," says Michael Kissick, an observer volunteering for the American Civil Liberties Union.
The comment in question took place at an August first meeting with some legislative aides concerned about safety.
The Journal Sentinel reports Capitol Police Chief David Erwin suggested filming a demonstrator if there is a safety concern and if that didn't work, hit the person as a last resort.
He wouldn't comment on the phone with 27 News on Tuesday, but Department of Administration spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis says the reports are not quite right. She says Erwin stressed trying to get away first if there is a conflict and if that doesn't work, try getting the person on camera. She says it was actually in response to a question about what to do if things got physical that Erwin said in self defense, you go for the nose.
Rep. Brett Hulsey heard about the chief's comment from his staff who attended the safety meeting.
"When you have the chief of police telling people to do inappropriate things, it raises a lot of concerns for me," Hulsey says.
Rep. Hulsey says he would rather his staff use the panic button that's now in some lawmakers' offices.
DOA says 482 panic buttons have already been installed at the request of each lawmaker, and it expects to install at least 60 more.
"I do notice they've stepped it up since we got the new chief," Kissick says.
In an unusual move, the Department of Justice is now taking over some civil cases where protestors were cited that previously went to the Dane County District Attorney's office.
Kissick says there is no problem with police trying to keep people safe, but..."This is a peaceful crowd of free speech expression and it is not a safety concern."
Regardless, Erwin has also expressed a need to enforce a permit policy more strictly. It requires groups of four people or more gathering at the Capitol to apply for a permit.
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