Complaint requests federal investigation of Madison officer in mall arrest

Community leaders file federal complaint against Madison police

Several Madison community leaders have filed two complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin against the Madison Police Department. In addition, the group filed a separate complaint against the Madison police officer who was involved in the videotaped arrest of 18-year-old Genele Laird at East Towne Mall in June.

The complainants said that the amount of force officers used to arrest Laird, an African-American woman, on June 23 was excessive. Cellphone video went viral of Laird’s arrest, in which the Madison officer struck and used a Taser on Laird multiple times in an effort to take her into custody.

A broader complaint asks the Department of Justice to investigate the practices of the Madison Police Department including police stops, detentions, arrests, the conduct of police officers and practices of the department toward African-Americans and communities of color.

“We the undersigned demand justice on behalf of Genele Laird,” the group wrote in a statement provided to News 3. “We also demand a change in the broader culture that condones the use and acceptance of violence, arrest, and detention disproportionately affecting and impacting African-Americans and other persons of color in our community.”

The group said both complaints were filed with the intent to challenge the use of excessive force and to create fundamental change in policies and practices that the group said give police too much latitude in use of force and too little accountability.

“We no longer trust or believe the system nor the policies and procedures meant to protect us (have) the best interests of our people or our community members who are African American, Latino, Hmong, Native and of mixed race culture, ethnicity, and identity,” the group wrote. “Again, the data and our collective community experiences bear this truth. Of most significance, we believe this system and its practices have become more harmful and divisive to the overall well-being of our community as a whole, this city and all quality of life. As a result we have requested a review of the pattern and practice of ongoing civil rights violations. We can no longer watch our community and its members be abused or subject to harm at the hands of a system that allegedly exists to protect us.”

Madison police Capt. Brian Ackeret said the department hadn’t received the complaint as of Thursday morning and thus was unable to comment.