Arrest in protest at Wisconsin Capitol could result in felony [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 26--MADISON -- An arrest during the usually peaceful Capitol singalong protests resulted in an altercation Monday between police and a protester and a tentative felony battery charge against him.
The charge being recommended to prosecutors is the most severe since labor protests began here in February 2011 and since police stepped up arrests during the noon protests one month ago.
Also Monday, 21 Democratic lawmakers called for auditors to look into the circumstances surrounding the 11.7% pay increase that Gov. Walker's administration gave to the Capitol Police chief earlier this year.
The incident leading to the felony charge occurred about midway through Monday's protest when demonstrator Christopher J. Terrell, 25, sat down and was approached by police. While they were in the process of cuffing him his brother Damon Terrell, 22, was pinned by officers in a wrestling match that lasted about 25 seconds.
From video made by protesters of the arrest, it was not clear what started the altercation. The footage, taken by another frequent protester and arrestee, Jeremy Ryan, shows Damon Terrell backing away from an officer before the altercation.
Officers turned Terrell over and one of them pinned the protester to the ground with his knee on the back of his neck and handcuffed him before carrying him out of the rotunda.
Stephanie Marquis, speaking for the Department of Administration, said in a statement, "Both individuals refused to leave and actively resisted officers when they were placed under arrest.... When officers began to arrest Damon Terrell, he began to walk away and actively resisted arrest."
She said one officer suffered an unspecified injury but declined to disclose it, citing medical privacy concerns.
In addition to the tentative charge of battery of a police officer -- a felony -- Damon Terrell is facing misdemeanor resisting arrest charges. His brother is being tentatively charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest and assembling without a permit.
The brothers have had a history of demonstrating, shouting at Capitol police, and being arrested by them. There is video of one of the brothers yelling at police before his arrest.
Phone calls to lawmakers about the arrest were not immediately returned.
In a letter sent Monday to the co-chairs of the Joint Audit Committee, the Democratic lawmakers asked Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Allouez) and Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Powers Lake) to have the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau look into the raise for Erwin, part of which was retroactive.
Gov. Scott Walker's administration has disputed that it violated any state personnel rules in awarding sizable pay raises to Capitol Police Chief Dave Erwin and his top deputy after moving the pair on paper to phantom jobs for two weeks and then back to their real positions.
Erwin, who has overseen a crackdown on Walker protesters at the statehouse, received an overall salary increase of $11,680 a year, with the first $720 of that coming retroactively.
In the letter organized by Rep. Jon Richards of Milwaukee, the Democrats said a rule in the compensation plan put forward by the Walker administration for state workers states that changes to employees' pay cannot be made retroactively except in very limited circumstances.
"We need to know how this was allowed to happen and whether it's a common practice," Richards said in a statement. "The law is very clear and should be followed."
Richards, an audit committee member, has said he wants the backdated raise returned. The state rule in question states that "no pay increases or decreases associated with provisions of this Section (Section I) shall be retroactive."
The only exceptions are for cases of errors needing correction or for cases of employee misconduct or appeals.
Cowles said in a statement that he was reviewing the request and would use "the same process" as for other requests, once he had talked with Kerkman and the audit bureau.
Marquis has said the retroactive raise was allowable because the department had made a mistake in incorrectly posting the maximum salary for Erwin's job before hiring him in July 2012 at a maximum annual salary of $99,387 rather than the $111,067 per year made by his predecessor.
Marquis said department staff had promised Erwin a raise to that higher salary at the end of his six-month mark and then neglected to give it to him. The retroactive transfers and raises were done, she said, to keep him from losing any of that pay.
"Chief Erwin was given a pay increase to correct the mistake made when the job was posted. Once he passed his probationary period, his salary was adjusted to the previous chief's pay to fix the error made when the job was announced," Marquis said last week.
In all, Erwin's pay rose 11.7%, to $111,067 a year, the same rate as his predecessor, Charles Tubbs, who was criticized by some Republican lawmakers for not dealing firmly enough with statehouse protesters.
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