MADISON (WKOW) -- We hear from the new capitol police chief for the first time since he took the role last month.
In his short time as chief, David Erwin has already gotten a reputation for being a tough leader—or as he describes it, "fair but firm."
"The military prepares you to be a great leader," Erwin says.
He was in the Marines for nearly eleven years.
He later worked as captain of the Wisconsin State Patrol Dignitary Protection Unit, providing security for Gov. Jim Doyle for six years then Gov. Scott Walker for two years before becoming capitol police chief.
"This is a hard job, and I have to make tough decisions sometimes," Erwin says.
He has faced criticism for citing people writing with sidewalk chalk outside the Capitol, and some see his crackdown on the building's permit policy as a way to stifle free speech.
"There is a time and place for free speech, and we reserve the right to regulate that a little bit," Erwin says. "We just have to keep it civil and people don't need to be threatened."
He says his second day on the job, he saw a young girl leave the Capitol scared because someone was shouting.
"How sad this girl has this memory burned into her brain that her experience was terrifying or scary. I don't want that. I don't want that for anyone."
Erwin insists his work with Walker's security doesn't pose a conflict of interest in now dealing with protesters.
"People like to paint the picture that you're together all the time but that's not the case. I would say I've spent a lot more time with Democrats than with Republicans," he says.
And as for how the protests were handled a year and a half ago under his predecessor, Charles Tubbs…
"There were very few arrests and no injuries. I would consider that a success story any day of the week."
The chief was pretty happy when we talked to him because he said he had just signed a permit from one of the Solidarity Singers, asking permission for the group to be at the Capitol next week.
That's something they haven't been doing every day for their singalongs at noon.
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