The Cop Against the Machine


Madison PD Officer Stephen Heimsness

The term “cozen”—meaning deception to win gain by shrewd trickery—is typically the antithesis of the word “noble,” although this rule of the English language might no longer apply in some quarters of our state’s capitol, where some seasoned law enforcement veterans believe Police Officer Stephen Heimsness is in the process of getting railroaded.

This leads one to wonder: is the Madison Police Department’s version of The Cozen Protocol being hatched inside the offices of its chief-of-police, Noble Wray, with his internal investigators playing the perfunctory roles of Bullpen Detectives John Spinelli and Bob Hillmeyer?

At 2:45 AM on November 9 of last year, Heimsness responded to a report of a possible entry in progress at a home on Madison’s isthmus. As he approached the residence, the officer observed the homeowner struggling with a man, later identified a Paul Heenan.  The intoxicated man then moved towards the officer and, according to Heimsness, Heenan reached for his gun.  The two men then began to grapple. Believing that the only reason an attacker would seek to disarm a police officer is to turn the gun against him, Heimsness fired three shots, killing Heenan.

Of course the residents of Madison are acting like the far-left residents that they are—a town that the late Wisconsin Gov. Lee Dreyfus once described as “Thirty-square miles surrounded by a sea of reality.” From the comfort of their coffee houses on Williamson and State Streets many Madisonians are now expert armchair cops, second-guessing Heimsness at every turn, even though they know that about one-in-ten police officers murdered each year are killed with their own firearms.

Other former Madison officers active in liberal causes have also stalked the flames burning under Heimsness’ feet.  Cheri Maples, a former police captain who now serves as a Buddhist teacher, told the Wisconsin State Journal that while she was “…not in a position to question Officer Heimsness’ statement that he feared for his life, I sincerely believe few officers would have made the same choice in the same set of circumstances.”

After reading Maples’ quote, many current and former law enforcement officers are probably wondering if the former captain was ever in the same position as Heimsness—in a struggle with an intoxicated person reaching for her firearm? My guess is that she was not, which is why Maples used the third person when referencing what officers would do in the same circumstance.

My suggestion to both Maples and Wisconsin State Journal reporter Sandy Cullen is this: why not interview police officers who actually walked-a-mile in Heimsness’ shoes? In some instances, I recognize that this might be difficult to do, since many of them are now deceased.

Meanwhile, I believe, Madison’s police chief, Noble Wray, appears to want it both ways.  While he has steadfastly defended Heimsness’ actions in regards to the shooting, Wray, it seems, is beginning to buckle under the pressure brought to bear by the city’s left-wing political establishment.

On February 3, Wray announced that the Madison Police Department had opened three “new” investigations of Heimsness’ conduct unrelated to the shooting or to the use of force.

“Although these investigations are not complete,” Wray told the Wisconsin State Journal, “I find the preliminary information to be troubling.”

Whatever happened to the Madison Police Department’s policy of not commenting about ongoing internal investigations?

Moreover, negatively commenting on an internal investigation prior to its conclusion seems to run counter to civil service law.  Wisconsin State Statute 62.13(5)(em)3, states, that a police chief must “…before filing the charge against the subordinate, made a reasonable effort to discover whether the subordinate did in fact violate a rule or order.” How can the chief-of-police claim that he made a “reasonable effort” to substantiate a charge against an officer after he publicly claimed that “preliminary” information, absent all the facts, is “troubling”?

In preparation for this post, SF reached out to those who understand the internal politics of the Madison Police Department, as well as those that know Officer Heimsness. To a person, they had good things to say about Heimsness, although they also believed he is soon to fall victim to Madison’s version of The Cozen Protocol.  

When asked if the Madison PD was collecting dirt so they can threaten Officer Heimsness with the loss of his job and force him to resign, one officer replied, “You are right on. Things are not good.”


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, is available at

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, please visit:

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013

5 Responses

  1. I tried to get hired by that sad joke of a police department in 1980. They turned me down. Best thing that ever happened to me.
    That must be a trend there-retiring to the clergy. Dave Couper, the hippy-dippy chief there in the 70’s and 80’s became an Episcopal priest. Maybe NoBall Wray will run for Pope now.
    The Italian Army in World War 2 was a more professional outfit than that gang of clowns.

    February 18, 2013 at 1:38 am

  2. Glenn D. Frankovis

    There are numerous studies of deadly force issues involving Police Officers, and this link to an FBI article provides information on several: .

    I have never used deadly force on another, however in my near 30 years of Police experience I have been very close both on duty and off duty. I also recall one specific incident where a female Officer was assigned to guard the victim of a sexual assault at her house because it was feared the suspect may return. In fact, the suspect did return and the female Officer confronted him in the backyard as I remember the incident. The unarmed suspect attacked the female Officer who disengaged and shot the suspect fearing that he would overpower her, take her weapon and use it against her. The shooting was ruled justifiable and no Department charges were filed either.

    It has long been my opinion that anyone investigating an Officer involved shooting should either have some personal experience with such incidents or, at the very least, a comprehensive knowledge of the incident to include everything there is to know about the Officer and the suspect as well as caselaw dealing with the issue of deadly force. Graham v Connor and Tennessee v Garner are the two Supreme Court cases most often cited when deadly force is discussed. In essence, deadly force used by an Officer must be reasonable, and any decision as to reasonableness must be based on the facts available to the Officer at the time of the incident – meaning essentially what did the Officer believe was happening as the incident was unfolding and leading up to the use of deadly force. Hindsight, as the saying goes, is 20-20 but that doesn’t cut it in the eyes of the Court when trying to determine if deadly force was reasonable.

    That said, the opinions of “former Police administrators”, other public officials, and the public in general ( with the exception of those who personally witnessed the event) are just that – opinions and therefore not relevant in the determination of whether or not deadly force was reasonable. Even in the case of witnesses to the incident, they may not be seeing the incident unfold as the Officer is seeing it. Their statements are but one piece of the puzzle.

    What we do know from the studies is that an Officer’s failure to react to what he/she believes is imminent danger to himself can, and often does, result in great bodily harm or death to the Officer. That said, if a suspect is attempting to disarm an Officer I believe it can reasonably be concluded that the suspect intends to use the Officer’s weapon against him/her and shoot the Officer with it. Considering the fact that a suspect has the option to disengage and run from the Officer, I don’t know how one could conclude otherwise. So if an Officer feels he/she is being overpowered then it would certainly seem there is no other choice but to stop the aggressive action of the suspect by whatever means the Officer has at his/her disposal.

    Hopefully, Chief Wray will make a professional decision based on the facts, caselaw and expert studies and not some kind of Roman coliseum justice whereby he looks to the public for a decision as to thumbs up or thumbs down.

    February 18, 2013 at 1:45 am

  3. Randy

    Noble Wray can’t even keep his wallet in his pants while in Milwaukee’s central city (and then refused to answer questions about it) How can he call what another cop did troubling?

    The Badger Blogger caught his PR people using deception.

    And they’ve got at least two murders of young women unsolved.

    February 18, 2013 at 3:06 am

  4. Mikey

    About 22-years ago, I was involved in an incident where a person had their hand on my duty gun and attempted to disarm me after I was summoned to back-up other officers during a family trouble. When the initial officers attempted to affect an arrest of the offending party the entire family jumped in to the fray. I felt a tug on my gun and turned and observed someone with long, ratty hair covering their face. This person was on the ground next to me with their hand on my pistol. I swatted the person’s hand away, but, once again, this person reached for and tugged on my firearm. This time I delivered a devastating backhand, which caused several teeth to come flying from the person’s mouth.

    After things settled down, I discovered that the person who had attempted to disarm me was a woman who was wheelchair bound. She had climbed out of her wheelchair with the intent to take my firearm. Why, well you can just imagine. The good news was that the teeth that flew from her mouth were just dentures. We arrested her for attempt to disarm. This family was well known to the police, as an officer had previously shot the person who had initiated the disturbance.

    The next day the newspaper ran a brief proclaiming that a woman was arrested for attempting to disarm a male officer. It is believed she is wheelchair bound. The so-called journalist who wrote it apparently thought it was quite funny, although, if they would have taken the time to read the police reports and understand the background of just who and what we were dealing with it might have caused them pause.

    The bottom line is this: most members of the media and the general public have no idea what it is like in a physically threatening environment at 3 AM when the alcohol-fueled shit hits the fan. They’ve never fought with drunks in cockroach and rat invested homes, been bit, poked in the eyes, kicked, or shot at. Many would go into a complete meltdown if someone took their smart phones away. When the shit hits the fan, those that carp about Heimsness and the police are the same people that would turn to mush and become cowards. Most of these “armchair cops,” as Spingola described them, have never even been punched. They’re even afraid to stand-up to cyber bullying!

    I am sure Officer Heimsness is about to get screwed by his chief, by his community, and by his command staff. My advice to him is to retain his OWN legal counsel (not the union’s), appeal the decision of the PFC through the courts, and then sue the living daylights out of the city. This is the only way to stop that department from railroading other coppers in the future.

    February 18, 2013 at 12:46 pm

  5. Gilbert

    Heimsness is in dire straits for a number of reasons. The Madison media is in love with Wray just like the left is in love with Obama. They won’t ask any tough questions about trumped-up charges. Heimsness is just another politically incorrect white guy who’s expendable. Wray knows that Madison’s police union isn’t the bare-knuckle punching Milwaukee Police Association. I’d much rather have Mike Crivello and the MPA’s lawyers in my corner than a politician like Jim Palmer.

    February 18, 2013 at 8:36 pm

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