Posts tagged “Noble Wray

Is the Madison Police Chief’s Departure a Gentle Push Out the Door?

Within the next few days, the police chief of Wisconsin’s second largest law enforcement agency, the City of Madison Police Department, is set to retire.  Noble Wray, a 52-year-old empty nester, is exiting his post to spend more time with his family.

While Wray might be getting the glad-hand treatment from the liberal press, there are some who believe that he was gently pushed out the door by Madison’s far-left, on-again, off-again mayor, Paul Soglin, over the shooting death of a local musician at the hands of Madison Police Officer Stephen Heimsness.  On November 9, 2012, a highly intoxicated Paul Heenan attempted to enter the home of a couple, who contacted the police.  When Heimsness arrived, Heenan, it is alleged, reached for the officer’s firearm and, as one would expect, bad things happened.

The shooting death of Heenan was investigated thoroughly. The case was reviewed by the Dane County DA’s office and the Professional Performance Division of the Madison Police Department.  Both agencies later cleared Officer Heimsness.  However, with Madison being Madison, residents voiced outraged that an officer would dare shoot a man who simply reached for his firearm, even though common sense dictates that the purpose of disarming an officer is to retrieve and possibly turn the firearm against the officer.  Each year, about 15 percent of the police officers in the U.S. shot-and-killed in the line of duty die as a result of their firearms being turned against them.

Ironically, while it is the justifiably-ruled shooting death of Heenan that led, at least in a de facto sense, to Wray’s gentle exit, the homicides of Madison co-eds Brittany Zimmermann and Kelly Nolan remain unsolved.  The Madison media, for the most part, has given Wray a free pass on these two troubling slayings, even though the press is keenly aware that two killers remain at-large to offend again.  I profiled some of the problems with the Zimmermann investigation in my latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II.

From my conversations with those in the know, Wray’s record as chief is a mixed bag.  He riled the normally docile Madison Professional Police Officers Association — the union representing rank-and-file Madison officers, sergeants, and detectives — by ordering an internal investigation of Heimsness’ tenure as an officer after the shooting of Heenan, where it was learned that Heimsness sent some troubling messages over his squad car’s mobile data computer (MDC).  Granted, the messages were, to say the least, unprofessional, but they did not merit the officer’s termination, as Wray requested.  Looking at this investigation from the lens of my 30-plus years of policing experience, I believe Wray was trying to placate the liberal establishment in Madison by forcing Heimsness out the door for disingenuous reasons.

Moreover, while Wray asked the residents of Madison to trust him, he used his position as chief of police to advocate for the lenient treatment of minority felony offenders, citing a racial bias in the criminal justice system.  My position on this matter is simple: if an individual — regardless of his or her race — does not wish to spend time in prison, do not commit serious crimes and then whine like a stuck pig while incarcerated.

Others privately complain that Wray’s command staff is top heavy, with two captains having similar titles and basically the same job responsibilities as the Madison Police Department’s two assistant police chiefs.  Eliminating these positions would free-up about $300,000, enough to hire six additional police officers.  With the Madison media in the tank for Wray, reporters and newspaper editors have never dared ask, for a fear of reduced access, why a police department that serves a city of 215,000 people needs two assistant chiefs of the police.

As far as the selection process for the next City of Madison police chief, the Spingola Files has checked with sources and believes that the Madison Fire and Police Commission will expand the search to include external candidates. The Madison Police Department’s soon-to-be interim police chief, Randy Gaber, is considered too much of a good old boy insider to ascend to the top job, even though, barring some type of political controversy, his hands are steady enough to guide the department through the transition.  The most qualified internal candidate, if he chooses to apply, is Captain Vic Wahl.  If outside candidates can opt-in, Commander Michele Donegan, of the Nashville Police Department, and Assistant Police Chief Jessica Robledo, of the Austin PD, might apply.

If these conventional choices do not pan out, under Soglin’s influence, the Madison Fire and Police Commission might shake things up by appointing a complete, low level outsider, such as Madison’s flower child former police chief, David Couper, whose only qualifications were being a liberal and having served as a detective in small town Minnesota.


On Tuesday evening, I had the privilege to present the “Psychology of Homicide” program at the Racine Public Library.  Afterwards, CBS 58 profiled the event and other crime related issues on its 10 PM newscast.   To view the segment please visit the link below:


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest print edition only book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available at

If your organization is on the lookout for an outstanding guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, visit and click the “seminars & presentations” icon.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013

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

Old School Sleuths Weigh-In on Most Current Crop of Detectives

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. His new book, Best of the Spingola Files, is now available at

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

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2012 


[1] “Murder Mysteries: National Statistics.” 31 March 2012.

[2] “Murder Mysteries: National Statistics.” 31 March 2012.

[3] Hogue, B. “DNA Collection Bill Proposed.” March 2, 2012.  31 March 2012.

Has the Cap of Law Enforcement Professionalism Come Off?

“Politics is war without guns,” former Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong once said.  “War is politics with guns.”

Mao’s pointed but extremist view of the political arena is an illustration of why politics—even in the United States—is often referred to as a ‘blood sport.’

As such, observers of the political theater better known as Battleground Wisconsin should not be all surprised by heavy-handed tactics and dirty tricks. 

Yet Ian Murphy, a kook-blogger from Buffalo, New York, recently reached a new, Nixonian-type low last week when he telephoned the office of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. During a secretly recorded telephone conversation, Murphy falsely assumed the identity of industrialist David Koch and then attempted to bait the governor with over-the-top rhetoric.  The strategy behind the the call proved unsuccessful, although the lack of due diligence by the governor’s staff in vetting the imposter is glaring.

Of course, politicians with vicious dogs in this fight, as well as those carrying water for their partisan bosses, are interpreting Walker’s remarks to benefit their side’s agenda.

In comments made to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Madison Police Chief Noble Wray took issue with Gov. Walker’s response to Murphy’s baited question about placing “troublemakers” in the crowd of protestors.

But what is the definition of an actual “troublemaker”?

Is it an elected member of Congress telling others that, in reference to events in Wisconsin, “Every once and awhile you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary”?‘bloody’/#

Is it trespassing and then, for all practical purposes, taking over the private property of another?

Is it acting like a group of spoiled, out-of-control teenagers who couldn’t get their way on the floor of the State Assembly?

 Or, worse yet, is it committing felony? 

In this instance, Chief Wray is not only selective in whom he publicly chides as instigators — he has it all backwards.  It is not Walker’s vague comments that are troubling, but rather Ian Murphy’s use of David Koch’s “personal identifying information” that points to evidence of a serious crime. 

According to Wisconsin state statute 943.201(2):  Whoever, for any of the following purposes, intentionally uses, attempts to use, or possesses with intent to use any personal identifying information or personal identification document of an individual, including a deceased individual, without the authorization or consent of the individual and by representing that he or she is the individual, that he or she is acting with the authorization or consent of the individual, or that the information or document belongs to him or her is guilty of a Class H felony: 

(a) To obtain credit, money, goods, services, employment, orANY other thing of value or benefit;

(b) To avoid civil or criminal process or penalty;

(c) To harm the reputation, property, person, or estate of the Individual.

Wisconsin state statute 943.201(1)(b)(1) describes “personal identifying information” as “an individual’s name.”

Now if Murphy made this call out-of-state, a prosecution for violating state law maybe problematic; however, persons involved in the commission of crimes that occur in Wisconsin face the possibility of charges if they conspired to commit the crime in another state.  Wisconsin state statute 939.31 describes a conspiracy as follows:

“Whoever, with intent that a crime be committed, agrees or combines with another for the purpose of committing that crime may, if one or more of the parties to the conspiracy does an act to effect its object, be fined or imprisoned or both not to exceed the maximum provided for the completed crime; except that for a conspiracy to commit a crime for which the penalty is life imprisonment, the actor is guilty of a Class B felony.”

Ethically, Chief Wray’s department needs to put politics aside and investigate if an actual felony may have occurred during Murphy’s conversation with Gov. Walker; otherwise, Wisconsin’s attorney general, J.B. Van Hollen, has the authority to step in and do so.

During heated political discourse, labor unrest, or civil strife, law enforcement agencies become—like it or not—the uniform arbitrators of fairness.  One section of The Law Enforcement Code of Ethics reads, “I will never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, animosities or friendships to influence my decisions.”

Could it be that Chief Noble Wray has checked his cap of professionalism at the door and is simply walking in lock step with his city’s mayor, Dave Cieslweicz?


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

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011

Gun Toting in Madison: Are All Constitutional Rights Considered Equal?

With the exception of Berkeley, California, the city of Madison, Wisconsin is probably the most liberal town in the United States, although activists there prefer the label “progressive.”  But an incident that occurred at a northeast side restaurant is testing the Madison Police Department’s respect for the state and federal Constitutions.   

On September 18, five men decided to pay a visit to a Culver’s restaurant, located near the popular East Towne Mall.  Seated at a picnic table outside, the men politely conversed over some custard that they had purchased.  The only thing that distinguished these particular customers from the others was the holstered firearms that they openly carried. 

Wondering if such conduct was lawful, a 62-year-old woman contacted the Madison police.  Soon, a swarm of officers responded to the call of gun-toting, custard eating men. 

When the officers arrived, they demanded identification.  Two of the five men politely declined to identify themselves.  They were handcuffed, searched, and issued tickets for obstructing the issuance of a citation.  In Wisconsin, however, individuals contacted by law enforcement are not required to identity themselves unless they’re operating a motor vehicle, where the law requires the production of a driver’s license.

A legal representative for the five men, members of a group that advocates the open carry of firearms, immediately threatened legal action.

And it looks as if the men may have a case.

It seems the actions of the Madison officers, and the subsequent response from their chief-of-police, runs contrary to a April 19, 2009, opinion issued by Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.

“His [Attorney General Van Hollen’s] memorandum to prosecutors” writes Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Patrick Marley, “says the mere act of having a gun does not warrant a charge of disorderly conduct, a position that pro-gun advocates have argued in several recent legal cases.” 

Van Hollen further explained that openly carrying firearms, even if technically legal, does not exempt those who do so from questioning.  Of course, the current state of the law allows a law enforcement officer to contact virtually anyone in a public place.  There is some ambiguity in the AG’s opinion as it relates to an official stop and the subsequent temporary detention of an individual if a reasonable suspicion does not exist that they are violating a local ordinance or state law, which goes to the heart of the Madison Police Department’s actions. 

After all, absent an officer’s belief that a reasonable suspicion exists that a crime is being committed, has been committed or is about to be committed, citizens are not obligated to comply when simply contacted by the police.

But instead of apologizing to the two men, who were handcuffed, searched and cited for doing nothing illegal, it appears that the Madison police have dug in their heels. After releasing the two citations for obstructing the issuance of a citation, Madison’s police chief, Noble Wray, ordered his officers to issue each of the five men disorderly conduct citations.

“The complaint clearly reveals she [the woman who called the police] recognized the potential for violence from these armed men and it was this fear that motivated her call to police,” Madison Police Department spokesman Joel DeSpain told the Wisconsin State Journal. 

On Friday, however, WTMJ talk-show host and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Wagner obtained the 62-year-old woman’s 911 call, where she clearly told the 911 operator that she was not disturbed but simply found the presence of openly carried firearms out of place.  On his show, Wagner went so far as to call Madison’s police chief “a liar.”

Listen to the 911 call by following this link:

It appears that, after the fact and facing the possibility of legal action from the open carry organization, the Madison Police Department sent detectives to re-interview the woman. Why these detectives were assigned follow-up to a complaint, that any objective person, having listened to the 911 tape would find baseless, I believe, points to some skillful posterior covering. 

But the police chief’s response goes further. 

In a September 22, 2010, news release, Noble Wray tells his officers that, “The individual [openly carrying a firearm] should be contacted, controlled, and frisked for weapons if appropriate. Officers should separate the suspect from any weapons in his/her possession during the encounter.”

But what if the party simply being ‘contacted’ for conduct the Wisconsin Attorney General believes is lawful does not wish to comply and is then ‘controlled’ and their lawfully held property seized for examination? Wray’s memo seems to place his officers in the field between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

You can bet that open carry advocates will continue to push the envelope and many of these issues will likely be decided in state and federal courts. 

In the meantime, taxpayers in the city of Madison—hang on to your wallets.


Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of Predators on the Parkway: a Former Homicide Detective Explores the Colonial Parkway Murders.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010