Like ground troops in a war, Janesville police might someday have to see a fellow officer take a bullet.
When that happens, they’ll be able to rely on Janesville firefighter medics who will be there with them, risking gunfire to patch up officers and treat civilian victims as soon as possible.
Janesville police and firefighters have been training for more than a year to work together in highly dangerous crime scenes, or “hot zones,” something many police and fire departments are not trained to do.
The joint training was just in its infancy April 3, 2018, when police responded to a domestic-violence incident on the city’s south side.
A woman had been shot repeatedly in the leg and was bleeding profusely. Later, police discovered a man in the same house who had been hit in the head with the butt of a shotgun, and a block away, another woman who was bludgeoned with a heavy object.
Officers didn’t know where the gunman was as they entered the house and carried the first woman out. Paramedics also had no idea whether they might come under fire when they went into the “hot zone” to treat her.
“Had those relationships and that confidence and trust in one another not been developed, I don’t think it would have gone that way,” said police Sgt. Mark Ratzlaff.
Instead, police would have carried the gunshot victim to an ambulance waiting around a corner, delaying treatment, Ratzlaff said.
As a result, the Janesville Police Department SWAT Team and patrol officers, Janesville Fire Department paramedics and Mercyhealth’s doctor-on-wheels unit MD1 were awarded the Association of SWAT Personnel, SWAT Team of the Year last month.
All the firefighters involved in the joint training are certified to deal with injuries under fire and are called Tactical Emergency Medical Support medics.
Police Chief Dave Moore said the idea for the joint operations came from police in Oak Creek, who worked with their fire department to make the change after the 2012 mass shooting at the Sikh Temple.
Six people died in the attack, when police had to help victims leave the temple because firefighters would not go into the hot zone, Moore said.
SWAT officers carry kits with tourniquets and bandages, Ratzlaff said, but: “I would much rather have a paramedic that goes on an ambulance, treating people all day long than one of my SWAT operators that went to a class nine months ago, hasn’t treated anybody in the meantime; now they’re responsible for saving my life.”
The two departments have also trained jointly for active-shooter incidents for the past five years, practicing scenarios in which a police team tracks down the shooter while a second team of police and firefighters enters the building to treat victims who might be bleeding out. That’s rather than wait until the shooter is “neutralized,” which was the old procedure, Ratzlaff said.
“In the meantime, people are bleeding out and dying. Like, why are we letting that happen?” Ratzlaff said.
All Janesville firefighters carry ballistic helmets and bullet-resistant vests in their vehicles so they can enter an active-shooter situation.
“We’ve come a long ways, I think, in the last five years,” said firefighter/paramedic Jordan Herget.
“Oh, yeah,” Ratzlaff agreed emphatically.
During a joint training exercise Wednesday at the fire department’s training center on County F, police officers and firefighter/paramedics drove a Bearcat armored car to a building, where the officers simulated breaking in and having one of their members injured.
Officers carried the injured officer back to the Bearcat, where two firefighter/paramedics waited to treat him.
“It’s muscle memory. It’s repetition. We want to get as close to reality as we can and do it how we would do it on the street,” Herget said.
The repetition helps police and firefighters work out the little things that could save time in an emergency, such as where each person sits and where the equipment goes in the armored car so no one trips and there’s room to treat someone, Ratzlaff said.
Training also helps them refine every little move. For example, they decided that when the SWAT team leaves the back of the Bearcat, one of the medics will close the doors to keep them safe from gunfire.
Eventually, two paramedics will enter buildings with SWAT officers so they can begin treatment even sooner, Ratzlaff said.
But training has not yet advanced to that level, especially because of a number of new team members, Ratzlaff said.
Ratzlaff said he often hears from police in other cities who say they don’t have the level of cooperation that Janesville officers have with their local firefighters and with the Department of Public Works, when barricades are needed, for example.
Herget and Ratzlaff seemed enthused by the joint training and the things they were learning from each other.
“They’ve been a great asset to us,” Ratzlaff said.
Residents who opposed the Clinton School District’s $41.9 million facilities referendum said Wednesday that the price tag and tax impact were too high.
The April 2 referendum failed by about 18 percentage points. It would have closed the elementary and middle schools—which each are more than 60 years old—and built a new 4-year-old kindergarten through sixth-grade campus on district-owned land next to Clinton High School.
It also would have allocated several million dollars for upgrades at the high school, including a new roof, gym floor, asphalt repairs, security enhancements and expansions to the agriculture and technical education programs.
Ronna Morton-Ballmer, a substitute teacher, was one of several residents who explained their opposition to the referendum during a public comment period at Wednesday’s school board meeting.
She said property taxes are already too high for many residents. She pays about $5,000 annually on her modest two-story home, she said, and the referendum would have tacked on more.
“This referendum pitted family members against family members, neighbors against neighbors, staff members against staff members,” Morton-Ballmer said. “... This is not Clinton. This is not us.”
She said the referendum “held merit” with its expansions of the technical education and agriculture programs. Downsizing buildings also has value, she said, but it was difficult to support the measure “without seeing an actual plan.”
She also said it would be tough to lose the stage and gymnasium in the middle school. New stages are not the same, she said, and the decades-old building still has a lot of use left.
District officials said Wednesday they will assess the district’s next steps in coming weeks.
Superintendent Jim Brewer told about 30 people in attendance that the district still has pressing facilities needs, such as its timeworn elementary and middle schools.
Those buildings are in poor condition, he said, and consolidating them will save money over time. He reminded the crowd that district officials had been fleshing out the referendum plan for two years.
Brewer displayed a news release from 2017 about the district’s facilities study. He said 171 opportunities were available to help residents understand the needs behind the referendum before the April 2 election, including facility tours and school board meetings.
Brewer said the school board’s committees will meet soon to discuss what to do next. If the board wanted to pursue another referendum, the earliest it could put one on the ballot would be spring 2020, he said.
In January, Bob Butler, the district’s director of facilities and transportation, said the elementary and middle schools no longer meet “educational adequacy.”
He said they contain asbestos, lack security and are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Each building’s heating pipes are crumbling, and each has high groundwater, he said.
Christine E. Anastasi
Lisa Ann Carey
Thomas J. Flood
Louise H. Johnson
William “Bill” Kerr
Edna Mae Knipschild
Ernest James Merwin
The liberal candidate’s concession Wednesday in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court race gave Republicans a boost of confidence following a string of losses heading into the 2020 presidential campaign.
The closely watched court race was an early measure of the mood in the battleground state, although its predictive value is limited. Past Supreme Court contests have not always been accurate previews of what will happen in fall elections with larger turnout.
At the very least, the narrow victory by conservative candidate Brian Hagedorn over his liberal opponent, Lisa Neubauer, showed once again that the margin for either side in Wisconsin is razor-thin. Neubauer conceded to Hagedorn eight days after the election, with his lead at about half a percentage point.
Hagedorn won by about 6,000 votes. County canvassing of the vote was ongoing, but Neubauer conceded after the majority of counties were done and the totals moved less than 200 votes.
The Supreme Court race is just the latest in a series of tight elections in Wisconsin, reinforcing its status as a battleground state heading into 2020 and part of a ”blue wall” including Michigan and Pennsylvania that Democrats are trying to build to beat President Donald Trump.
Other than Barack Obama’s two wins, the past three presidential elections in Wisconsin have been decided by just a few thousand votes. Trump carried Wisconsin by less than 1 percentage point, or about 23,000 votes, in 2016. In 2000 and 2004, the Democratic nominees won by about 5,700 votes and 11,000 votes.
In 2018, Republican Gov. Scott Walker lost by just over 1 point to Democrat Tony Evers. The Democratic attorney general candidate, Josh Kaul, also won by less than a point.
While Republicans were excited by Hagedorn’s win, past Supreme Court races haven’t always been accurate indicators of future elections.
Last year, the liberal Supreme Court candidate cruised to victory in April, foreshadowing more narrow Democratic victories in the midterm elections.
However, in 2007 and 2008 conservative candidates won Supreme Court races, victories that came in between huge Democratic wins in the fall of 2006 and the 2008 presidential election.
Hagedorn’s win seems to fit that model, coming after Republicans lost every statewide race in 2018.
Hagedorn, in a message to supporters Wednesday, said he “meant every word” when he said during the campaign that partisan politics has no place in the Supreme Court. He also thanked supporters for their hard work and prayers.
“Together, we made history,” Hagedorn said.
In a nod to the national significance of the race, Trump tweeted congratulations to Hagedorn, calling it a “big surprise win” in a “very important Supreme Court seat.”
Hagedorn’s victory increases the conservative majority on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court to 5-2.
A liberal win would have given them a chance to take the majority next year. Now conservatives will have it until at least 2023.