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Madison police chief makes case for less-lethal launchers

Acting Madison Police Chief Vic Wahl
WKOW photo
Acting Madison Police Chief Vic Wahl

MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison's acting police chief took to his blog Monday morning to make the case for equipping more squad cars in the city with a less-lethal launcher.

In the post, Acting Police Chief Vic Wahl said a pilot program that put 40mm launchers firing sponge impact rounds in some MPD squad cars may have saved a man's life.

On Friday, Madison police responded to a man having a mental breakdown who wanted officers to shoot him, according to Wahl. The man allegedly had a knife and at one point drove a vehicle at police, stopping just short of the squad cars while his family watched nearby.

Officers fired a taser and 40mm launcher after he got out of the vehicle, according to Wahl. The man dropped the knife.

The launcher happened to be in a squad car at the scene that was a part of the pilot program. "That stroke of luck may have saved this man's life," Wahl said.

Police took the man first into custody and then to a hospital for a mental health evaluation, Wahl said.

"Here's where budget actions have consequences," Whal said before advocating that further funding for the launchers be included in the 2020 city budget.

Wahl said his eventual goal is to see the launchers available in every "front-line" police vehicle.

Some activists have advocated instead for reducing the police department's budget in favor of funding health and other services that could take over the responding to some calls like for mental breaks.

Activists argue health and social workers would be better equipped to ensure some calls for service end peacefully.

The decision to fund launchers will ultimately fall to the Madison Common Council in the city's budgeting process later this fall.

JT Cestkowski

Social Media Content Producer/Desk Editor

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