MADISON, Wis. — Two white Madison police officers acted reasonably and within department policies when they arrested an 18-year-old black woman outside of a mall, in an altercation that sparked protests after footage of it was posted online, according to an external law enforcement review released Thursday.
Madison Police Chief Mike Koval released the results of the Dane County Sheriff’s review and wrote a lengthy blog piece about the incident. Koval, noting that the arrest “understandably evoked emotional reactions and concerns as to the use of force,” pledged to improve police interactions with the public.
“As Chief, I do acknowledge this pain and I am sorry that this incident has been the source of so much hurt, anger, and fear for many in our community,” he wrote.
The police department’s internal review also cleared the officers, who don’t face any charges.
The arrest came a year after a white Madison police officer fatally shot Tony Robinson, a 19-year-old black man, during an altercation in an apartment building stairwell. The shooting put the department under intense scrutiny and sparked days of protests. The officer was eventually cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.
Police arrested Genele Laird in June outside of a Madison mall after they say she displayed a knife while confronting someone she thought had stolen her cellphone. She allegedly threatened security staff and resisted arrest.
Video of the arrest, showing two white officers struggling with a screaming Laird and using a Taser, sparked protests alleging excessive use of force and discrimination by Madison police. In the video, officers take Laird to the ground and handcuff her. It shows one officer striking her with his knee and fist several times while trying to get her hands behind her back. Two officers were treated for minor injuries after the arrest.
The sheriff’s department determined in its review that the arresting officers’ actions “were objectively reasonable and consistent with MPD policy and training provided by the state of Wisconsin.”
The review said that Laird was resisting arrest and “began to pose more of a potential threat as her level of tension and agitation increased.”
“The level of force was reasonable, necessary, and appropriate based on the totality of the circumstances,” the sheriff’s department found.
Laird’s attorney, Syovata Edari, did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. Her office voicemail was full.
The material released Thursday also included the names of the arresting officers, Richard Friday and Andrew Muir, for the first time. News outlets had been seeking that information since the arrest.
Friday is an eight-year veteran of the Madison police department who was previously investigated for six potential policy or procedure violations, including three times for alleged excessive use of force. He was exonerated every time. Friday also has received 17 commendations and three life-saving awards.
Muir, a three-year veteran, was investigated five times, including twice for alleged excessive use of force. He was exonerated in all of those cases. Muir has eight commendations and one life-saving award.
Laird did not face criminal charges as a result of the incident and was instead put into a restorative justice program designed to keep low-level offenders out of the criminal justice system. She could face three felony charges for spitting at an officer, battery to an officer and resisting an officer should she not complete the program, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said in June.