Soglin concerned about police culture, vows training - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Soglin concerned about police culture, vows training


MADISON (WKOW) -- In the wake of revelations an officer used a city computer system to belittle coworkers, make inappropriate racial and sexual remarks, and joke about carrying out a workplace shooting, Mayor Paul Soglin says he's concerned about the public's confidence in the force, and vows to lead sensitivity training across city government.

The squad car-based computer messages were revealed in a complaint lodged against Officer Stephen Heimsness by Police Chief Noble Wray, who proposes Heimsness' firing. A number of the messages were sent in the days and weeks before Heimsness shot and killed unarmed, musician Paul Heenan, who Heimsness says was going for the officer's gun.

Soglin Tuesday said the fall out from Heimsness' just-revealed conduct represents the most serious matter for the police department in four decades.

Soglin says he will work with Wray and officials of the city's human relations and civil rights office to lead training to promote dignity and respect in the city workplace.

Wray's complaint about Heimsness to the city's police and fire commission includes a computer transmission from Heimsness to another officer on the morning of the Nov. 9 shooting of Heenan.

"I'm the right cop, for the wrong job," Heimsness wrote. "No witnesses, no problem."

Dane County district attorney Ismael Ozanne determined Heimsness committed no crime in the Heenan shooting, and an internal Madison police investigation concluded Heimsness was justified in his used of deadly force. Heenan had drunkenly entered a neighbor's home, and scuffled with the man, before clashing with Heimsness, who had his gun drawn.

When asked whether the revelation of Heimsness' computer messages should prompt Ozanne to revisit the circumstances of the shooting, Soglin pointed to the city attorney's view evidence of character, and traits, are generally not legally admissible in trying to show alleged, criminal conduct conformed to the traits.

Ozanne has yet to respond to a request for comment from 27 News.

The more than one hundred page complaint against Heimsness also alleges he was untruthful with police investigators about the handling of another officer's rifle. Wray states Heimsness partially disassembled the rifle and hid it, after the officer failed to properly store it after a work shift.

Heimsness' attorney, Andrew Schauer, declined comment when contacted by 27 News, citing the ongoing complaint process before the commission.

But Schauer expresses frustration over the public statements from other city officials on the Heimsness case.

"I'd like to sing from the mountaintop about how this guy is being treated," Schauer says. 

Soglin says he joins Wray in being "troubled and distressed" over Heimsness' conduct.

In a statement from Madison police sergeant Mike Hanson, Hanson acknowledged other officers have also been investigated in connection with their use of the Mobile Data Computers, and found to have used the system " a manner inconsistent with department policy."

The statement says the investigation of the other officers "...has been resolved internally."

Heimsness, a fifteen year veteran of the force,  remains on paid, administrative leave. Records show Heimsness' most recent annual, pay from all city sources at more than $80,000.

In 2001, Heimsness was suspended for using excessive force, after he shot at the tires of a suspect's fleeing car in a city garage.


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