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Review Finds UW-Madison Police Acted Appropriately In Classroom Arrest

April Arrest Sparked Campus Protests

Snowstorm on the UW-Madison campus
Bill Martens/WPR

Two University of Wisconsin-Madison police officers who entered a classroom to make an arrest in April acted within their authority, according to the conclusion of an administrative review of the arrest. The review also offered recommended changes for the department

UW-Madison student Denzel McDonald was arrested April 14 on 11 graffiti charges and one disorderly conduct charge. McDonald was accused of spray-painting anti-racist graffiti around campus between October 2015 and April 2016.

The arrest sparked controversy on campus because Officers Matt Schirmacher and Justin Zurbuchen entered a classroom where a class was underway to make initial contact with McDonald.

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The review found their actions might have been unusual, but they weren’t inappropriate, according to a statement on the department’s website. The officers said they spent two weeks trying to contact the student for questioning at his residence and by phone before going to his class.

Still, the statement said the department implemented recommendations made in the review. The department is adopting procedures and training specific to making arrests in classrooms, ensuring supervisors are aware when officers plan to enter classrooms, changing training procedures so day- and night-shift workers are equally exposed to trainings and giving Schirmacher and Zurbuchen additional training on calling supervisors in situations that would benefit from “supervisory intervention.”

In May, the Madison district attorney declined to charge McDonald with vandalism and instead referred him to a community restorative court.