Madison City Council members want town to rescind hiring of former DeForest Police Chief Daniel

October 11, 2018

A majority of Madison City Council members want the town of Madison to rescind the hiring of former DeForest Police Chief Daniel Furseth, who quit in August after making racist comments in a video posted on YouTube, as a part-time patrol officer.

Council President Samba Baldeh, Vice President Sheri Carter, and nine other council members signed a letter released Wednesday afternoon that called the hiring an “insensitive move” and asked the town leadership and its Police and Fire Commission to take a second look and immediately rescind the offer given to Furseth.

“Mr. Furseth deserves a second chance but not in law enforcement particularly in the town of Madison, which will soon be attached to the city of Madison,” the letter says. “It is our belief that insensitivity to people of color disqualifies him to hold the position of law enforcement officer.”

Late last week, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin knocked the town Police Department for hiring Furseth, 50, not because he quit his previous post amid controversy but because it was shortsighted for the town to add employees as it prepares to dissolve.

The town is due to be absorbed by Madison and Fitchburg in 2022.

Town of Madison Police Chief Scott Gregory approved the hiring even though he was among Furseth’s most vocal critics after the video made 11 years ago surfaced earlier this year.

In 2007, Furseth shot the 36-second video of a group of five well-dressed black men walking from their car to a Steak ’n Shake restaurant while Furseth mockingly narrates the action in a stereotypical urban black voice. An investigation for the village found the video was posted on YouTube last December by Alexei Strelchenko, a former intern for the DeForest police.

Furseth resigned on Aug. 23 after accepting a severance package from the village for $102,000. The cost of the severance package was less than what the village would have spent to fire Furseth, village president Judd Blau said at the time.

As president of the Dane County Chiefs of Police Association, Gregory called out Furseth’s actions in a letter to media outlets in August, saying they did not reflect the work departments do to build trust among the public.

Town chairman Jim Campbell and Gregory could not be reached for comment Wednesday. But Gregory has said that Furseth has continued to apologize and remains remorseful over the video, which he understands has had a negative impact on the village of DeForest and the area. Gregory also said Furseth told him he plans to retire before the merger with the city of Madison and Fitchburg takes place, and that Furseth needs to work three more years before he can retire without reductions to his benefits as a protected state employee with 25 years or more experience.

The Madison City Council’s letter criticizes Gregory’s decision.

“This hiring serves to do the exact opposite of what Chief Gregory stated that he and the association would do,” the letter says. “Hiring Mr. Furseth undermines the trust with communities that he took an oath to protect and serve, and hiring Mr. Furseth in the town of Madison Police Department reopened the wound which was healing through his resignation.”

The town should rescind the offer to Furseth “if there is to be any healing and rebuilding of trust between government, law enforcement and our shared communities,” the letter says.

The letter is signed by Baldeh, Carter and Alds. Barbara Harrington-McKinney, Ledell Zellers, Mike Verveer, Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, Arvina Martin, Allen Arntsen, David Ahrens, Michael Tierney and Keith Furman.

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