Archive for April, 2011

The Fog of Time & Grafton Crimes

To view this article, checkout Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You coming to in December 2012.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. 

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© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011

It is Now Official: Prosser Wins

Having made a serious examination of both candidates for Wisconsin Supreme Court, SF took the unusual step of encouraging readers to vote for Justice David Prosser. 

During this debate, SF asked its readers to consider the men and women wearing blue and brown uniforms—many of whom toil under difficult conditions—to keep the streets of Milwaukee and many other Wisconsin communities’ safe for all to enjoy.

SF cited Rick Sandoval’s endorsement of Justice Prosser, as it related to the shooting of his squad partner, Mike Lutz, as one significant reason to vote Prosser.

In turn, SF also called out those who would put “dollars over sense,” as, I believe, the Madison Professional Police Officers Association did when endorsing Prosser’s Green Party supporting opponent, Joanne Kloppenburg.

Today, it is official. Counted and certified, the voters of Wisconsin have reelected Justice Prosser to a ten-year term on the state supreme court by 7,316 votes.

It is now time for the Kloppenburg camp to concede defeat.

Clearly, Wisconsin is divided state politically.  Yet, when it comes to officer safety, the majority of voters got it and put a real pragmatist back on the bench.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective.

© Steve Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011

Freeing Barabas is Not the Answer

A few days ago, a tipster alerted SF that the Madison Professional Police Officers Association—the union representing rank-and-file Madison police officers, sergeants and detectives—had endorsed the candidacy of Joanne Kloppenburg for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. 

“Why,” the tipster asked, “would a police union put dollars over sense and endorse a candidate likely to give the benefit of the doubt to criminal defendants?”

This reader’s concerns are similar to those echoed by retired Milwaukee Police Officer Rick Sandoval in a television ad supporting the 12-year incumbent, Supreme Court Justice David Prosser.

Researching the matter, SF located a news release, posted at, pertaining to the Madison Professional Police Officers Association’s endorsement of Kloppenburg. 

“We value the importance of a non-partisan judge, who will offer an independent opinion when evaluating cases,” said Brian Austin, MPPOA board member, in the news release. 

I am more than a little disappointed that Mr. Austin—a former Milwaukee County assistant district attorney—signed-off on the endorsement.  One would think that after charging cases in a county that nearly half the state’s prison population calls home, Austin would have some empathy for his police officer colleagues in Milwaukee, where a state Supreme Court’s willingness to give criminal defendants the benefit of the doubt will, sooner or later, wreak havoc on the city streets.   

To clarify matters, SF reached out to Dan Frei, the President of the Madison Professional Police Officers Association, who a good source described as a “straight-shooter” and a “cop’s cop.”

“I’m not sure anyone has made a convincing case that Kloppenburg will be anti police or pro defendants,” Frei wrote in an e-mail. “Just because she once worked under [liberal State Supreme Court Justice Shirley] Abrahamson doesn’t mean that she will be in lockstep with her.”

The available data, however, leads SF to believe that, if elected, Joanne Kloppenburg may actually become the most liberal justice on the court.

Consider Kloppenburg’s remarks made during a debate with Prosser at Marquette University Law School. 

“I never said I was tough on crime,” Kloppenburg told the audience.  “Being tough on crime was not my message.”

Instead, it appears Kloppenburg’s message is that of an eco-warrior crusader. As an attorney with the Wisconsin Department of Justice, she hassled farmers for run-off into streams and challenged the property rights of landowners receiving local zoning variances.

One example is that of a Kaukauna couple, William and Lynn Gerrits, who did not wish to spend $50,000 to relocate their home an additional 18 feet from a creek.  The Gerrits’ received a variance from a zoning law requiring buildings to be 75 feet from the water.  The county board granted the couple a variance because it determined that a local government entity failed to inform the landowners that the house was too close to the creek during the building permit process.  Acting on behalf of the DNR, Joanne Kloppenburg argued that the couple did not deserve a variance, even though government regulators were at fault. 

Even more troubling is the Kloppenburg endorsement of Wisconsin Green Party candidate Ben Manski during last fall’s race against a Madison area Democrat, Brett Hulsey.  Manski is the executive director of the Liberty Tree Foundation, a left wing organization that supports Wisconsin Assembly Bill 203—restricting the ability of the President of the United States to deploy members of the Wisconsin National Guard overseas in times of crisis. 

If Kloppenburg’s support for the Green Party candidate is any indication of where Wisconsin is headed if she gets elected to the state’s highest court, hang on to your wallets. The Wisconsin Green Party platform calls for new “gas guzzler” car taxes, expensive and heavily subsidized light-rail projects, and Wisconsin’s unilateral implementation of the Kyoto accords on global warming, which would—using conservative numbers—easily double the average family’s electric bill and significantly damage Wisconsin’s electricity-driven manufacturing base.

However, at the end of the day, many of SF’s readers primary concern is the safety of law enforcement personnel, which is why some find the Madison police union’s endorsement of Kloppenburg troubling. 

“The vast majority of our union,” writes Frei, “does have an issue with what he [Governor Walker] has been doing and we would naturally make endorsements with that in mind.”

But is putting “dollars over sense” really a reason to give a candidate clearly out of touch with mainstream Wisconsin a 10-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court? 

During this season of Lenten reflection, the Madison police union’s call to end the career of David Prosser—even though that union has not made an issue of a single Prosser decision from the bench—is eerily reminiscent of the events of Holy week.   

From his chair in a courtyard, Pontius Pilate brought a beaten Jesus in front of the crowd.  In an attempt to dissuade the followers of the high priest Kaphus, Pilate gave the mob a choice, which man should go free: Barabas, a man in prison for a riotous murder, or Jesus?  The mob sided with their leader and freed the murderer while demanding that Pilate crucify an innocent man.   

The freeing of Barabas was a decision made out of spite by a mob looking for political vengeance.  

On the dangerous streets where those wearing blue and brown uniforms labor, organizations representing law enforcement officers should not cut-off their noses to spite their faces. The perpetrator discussed in the Rick Sandoval ad for Justice Prosser came just one Wisconsin Supreme Court vote away from escaping justice for the shooting of Police Officer Mike Lutz.  

And, regardless of what her supporters claim, it is not rocket science to deduce which side Joanne Kloppenburg would have ruled with. After all, being tough on crime, as she admitted, isn’t her “message.”


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI 2011