A Madison School Board member’s comparison of police to Nazis and of Dane County’s juvenile jail to concentration camps is drawing the ire of local law enforcement.
In a Facebook post Saturday highlighting the plight of youth detained at the Dane County Juvenile Detention Center, Ali Muldrow said: “I think that (it’s) important to talk about what it is like for the students who are arrested at school and end up in the Dane County Jail. We would not talk about the role of the Nazis and act as if the experiences people had in concentration camps is a separate issue.”
Muldrow, who was elected to her first term on the board in April, has long questioned the need to lock up juvenile offenders and criticized racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
Her comments come after the board in June narrowly voted to continue having one Madison police officer serve in each of Madison’s four main high schools. Muldrow voted against the contract to continue placing school resources officers, or SROs, in the schools.
In a statement, Madison police chief Mike Koval said, “it is unfortunate at a time when agencies like (the Madison Police Department) are bending over backwards to increase trust and to enter into meaningful dialogues that will advance collaboration and mutual respect, that a member of our School Board would be inclined to use defamatory rhetoric to make a point. Attributions and inferences born in hot button buzz words only create more barriers to our mutual goal of finding the best ways to educate our children.”
Comparing the local criminal justice system to Nazism was a step too far for Sheriff Dave Mahoney, who commented on Muldrow’s post: “It’s unbelievable that anyone today would relate MPD or any other Dane Co (law enforcement) to Nazis.”
He said such a “reckless tone only serves to incite extremist reactions” and said SROs are “true servants … available to be mentors and role models.”
His comment was later deleted.
Muldrow didn’t back off her comparison Monday afternoon, saying in a Facebook message to the State Journal that “the rounding up a specific demographics of people including LGBTQ folks and folks with disabilities, than institutionalizing them in locked facilities, is being done now in a variety of ways and was also done in Nazi Germany.” She did not elaborate.
She also claimed there were different standards being applied to Jews and black people.
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“One of the reasons using Jewish people as an example is important is because no one would ever dare say the Jewish community deserved to be detained during the Holocaust,” she said. “However, when black communities are targeted for incarceration the argument is often about their actions, not the state’s.”
Alan Klugman, interim executive director of the Jewish Federation of Madison, emphasized that he is “very sympathetic to the plight of students who are incarcerated.”
But he had “difficulty equating what they go through with Nazi Germany.”
School Board president Gloria Reyes, a former Madison police officer, called the Holocaust comparisons “very far-fetched.”
“We can’t blame officers for the disparities in arrests,” she said. “They (police) get called.”
She said she shared Muldrow’s concerns about disparities in arrests “but we are doing something about it,” mentioning restorative justice, for example.
Kelly Powers, president of the Madison Professional Police Officers Association, called Muldrow’s post “universally insulting” and “ridiculous on so many levels.”
“It is this sort of position that will cause (the Madison School District) to continue seeing departures to open enrollment and families moving to neighboring communities,” he said.
In her own comment on Muldrow’s post, school board member Ananda Mirillli, who was also elected to a first term in April, thanked Muldrow “for directly speaking to the issue of armed police in our schools. Thanks for speaking to the experiences of our students upon incarceration.”