Even Watchdog is weary of returning to this topic, but it appears there was another serious unreported crime in Madison on Aug. 5, besides the savage youth-gang beating of a man walking to work ("Brutal Attack Kept Under Wraps," 9/5/08).
At around 3:30 a.m., a Badger Cab driver was assaulted after picking up some youths on Madison's north side. As he was dropping them off, one wrapped a sock or T-shirt around his neck from the back seat, choking him until he couldn't breathe. The driver, Brian Wuethrich, managed to throw a few punches, and the youths fled. He was surprised that police did not put out a news release.
"I was bodily attacked," says Wuethrich. "It seemed pretty serious to me. It really made me wonder what the hell else is going on in this town."
MPD spokesman Joel DeSpain, whose releases for Aug. 5 concerned three accidents and a weapons charge, says the officer on duty that night apparently made "a judgment call" against posting the incident. It was not mentioned in the daily briefing, and the police report was not typed until Aug. 20.
Reporters can learn of incidents by monitoring police scanners, checking in with DeSpain or the officers on duty, and checking a daily 911 call log. But the daily police reports made available often omit more serious offenses, which get routed for follow-up.
"It's not a perfect system," says DeSpain, who has asked the officers on duty to flag attacks on citizens.
Police Chief Noble Wray's goal is to "create a system" where reporters have access to all incidents, as opposed to having police decide what's newsworthy. He adds that reports are completed late because of staffing shortages.
"In the last year, we've added 30 cops," Wray says. "We haven't added any records staff." Last summer, the office's backlog reached 1,200 reports, four times what was once the threshold for authorizing overtime.
The MPD now has 20.5 records typists; it's asked for two more in 2009. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has authorized one, as well as the hiring of a new records manager.