Tensions rise between student leaders and UWPD over tweet

MADISON, Wis. — It’s been two weeks since University of Wisconsin’s Associated Students of Madison declared a vote of no confidence in the university police department. Tensions have already been high, but a tweet by UWPD is causing more issues.

On Sunday, ASM Chair Matthew Mitnick shared an op-ed on Twitter about the university’s failure to address racial injustice and calls to defund the police department.

UWPD replied to Mitnick’s tweet “In our first two meetings with ASM leaders, @matthewmitnick_told us more than once that it was not ASM’s aim to defund or abolish UWPD. This certainly goes against Matthew’s own stated position.Thinking face#mixedmessages

“I read it and I was like shocked. I mean honestly I wasn’t too surprised given the fact of how this department has treated students,” said Mitnick. “Honestly my character, they were taking shots at, so it was pretty disappointing to see and shocking that a university officially, an official account from a department would do that to an individual student.”

Mitnick believes he’s allowed to share his opinion on his personal Twitter page, and feels the police department “publicly attacked” him for it.

In a statement from UWPD, Public Information Officer Marc Lovicott said in part, “We can no longer just sit back and continue to watch misinformation and false statements being shared about UWPD.”

Lovicott said Mitnick’s tweet “goes against everything he has previously told UWPD in prior meetings — he has stated multiple times previously that he and ASM have no plans to move forward with an effort to try and defund and/or abolish UWPD.”

“What is misinformation and false statements about me expressing a personal belief to defund and abolish the department? I don’t think there’s any mistruths there. And on my personal Twitter I share support for the Dodgers baseball team. So does that mean that ASM supports the Dodgers?”

Mitnick said UWPD’s reply to his tweet is another example of the dismissive way the police treat students, especially those of color.

“If there would’ve been anything to kind of mend the relationship, they just broke it,” said Tarah Stangler

Stangler, a member of the UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition, said almost 50 students have submitted their stories of negative interactions with UWPD.

“We’ve had a good number of people talking about how during mental health crises the problems were exacerbated by the way they were handled with UWPD. We’ve had issues where students have talked about racial profiling and other instances of racism,” said Stangler.

In a letter to Chancellor Rebecca Blank, Mitnick released a list of 10 demands. They include removing the Abraham Lincoln statue on Bascom Hill and the Chamberlain Rock, along with defunding and abolishing the UWPD. He said these demands are from him, not ASM as a group.

In the last month, Blank has tweeted her support for UWPD, saying the department has been responsive to these issues.

Mitnick said this list was previously posted by the BIPOC Coalition, and the demands are not new. Students have been pushing for these changes for years.

The College Republicans of UW-Madison have responded to Mitnick with their own pair of petitions to protect the Abraham Lincoln statue and UWPD.

In a press release, the group said “Chairman Mitnick cites his disgust with the fact that the department called him and other ASM leaders out on their unwillingness to work with the department on finding a solution, rather opting to make decisions for the student body based on the opinions of a few.”

Lovicott said UWPD will continue the conversation with ASM.

“As Chief Roman has previously stated, we’ve been disappointed with ASM’s recent actions in the midst of what were originally very good initial conversations. We hope those good conversations continue,” said Lovicott.

Mitnick wants to see both Lovicott and Chief Roman fired for sending the tweet reply that shows “continued community harassment.”