Skip to main content
                                                                                              

Capitol Police History


In 1881 there were five police officers employed at the Wisconsin State Capitol. 

By 1903 there were eight police officers and two night watchmen.

In 1911 there were eight policemen under the Superintendent of Public Property.

An interesting event happened early in the history of the Capitol Police Department. Late on the evening of February 26, 1904 the second State Capitol Building burned. On that evening the lights in the Capitol dimmed, and then went out, as they did every night between 10:00 and 11:00 PM when the generator in the basement which produced the buildings electricity was shut down for the night.  The only illumination remaining in the Capitol until daybreak would be two gas jets on the buildings second floor. 

These lights were intended to be used by the two night watchmen when they were not occupied performing one of their two nightly “grand rounds,” which took them to all parts of the Capitol, including the attics over the Senate and Assembly Chambers, where a series of pipes with open nozzles were laid so the rooms could be flooded in a matter of minutes if the danger of fire threatened.  Over $20,000 had been appropriated to install the sprinkling systems over the chambers.  The Capitol had one of the most advanced fire systems of its day.  

Nevertheless, a principal part of the duties of the night watchmen on their grand round was to check all the fireplaces and stoves in the building to insure the embers were extinguished.

During one grand round, night watchman Nathanial “NAT” Cramton smelled smoke shortly after 2AM.  He immediately went upstairs to his second floor post in the west wing, following the odor.  Arriving at the Assembly Post Office, Cramton found a recently varnished ceiling above the gaslight ablaze.  He attempted to put out the fire by throwing a pail of water up on it, but the blaze had already progressed beyond such efforts. 

While the other watchman, Mr. Chase unrolled a hose from the nearest standpipe, Cramton telephoned Madison’s central fire station alerting the main company which raced to the State house. Meanwhile Chase had found that there was almost no water pressure, although he found the connection, hose and nozzle in good working order.  Unknown to Cramton and Chase, an engineer at the University had drained the tanks in the main hall in the course of cleaning out a boiler. 

Madison firefighters, mostly volunteers arrived, but the fire spread and broke out again.  The Madison firefighters discovered the same problems with the fire hoses. 

The cause of the fire is believed to have been from the gas jets in the closet/cloak room on the second floor next to the Assembly Post Office. The north wing was the only part of the building saved.

Slowly over the years from 1906 to 1917, the old Capitol was dismantled and scattered, and the new Capitol which stands today was constructed.

Nat Cramton became a police officer for the State House in the following years and according to the Wisconsin State Journal August 24, 1924 at the young age of 78 he was still a member of the state house police force.  It is unknown what happened with Mr. Chase.

In the late 1960’s Ray Hustad was the Head of Capitol Security. 

In 1969 the State Legislature changed the then Capitol security force to the State Protective Services in response to a civilian group and Father James Groppi, who took control of the State Capitol Assembly Chamber in 1969 for a week long period. The Secret Service was brought in to conduct a study and subsequent recommendations for improved security of the Capitol.  It resulted in the state hiring a number of police officers to provide law enforcement services at the Capitol and other DOA owned facilities.  The Capitol Police were assigned to the Dept. of Administration. The goal was to have 66 police officers and 13 detectives.

In 1970, the first Capitol Police Chief was Robert Hamele, Chief Hamele served the Capitol Police until he retired in 1987.

In 1987, Lt Michael Metcalf was named Chief of the Capitol Police Department.

In 1996, the state legislature gave the Capitol Police a significant increase in their statutory authority for enforcement actions. (Per ss 16.84(2) authority was given to enforce state laws anywhere in the State of Wisconsin.

In the year 2000, Law enforcement responsibilities for the State Fair Park in Milwaukee were given to the Capitol Police and the two units merged as one. In 2008, SFP separated from the Capitol Police and joined the private sector.

In December of 2003, Chief Metcalf retired.

Lt. Marc Schmidt served as interim Chief from Jan 2004 until October 2004.  In October of 2004, Capt. David Heinle was made acting Chief.  A three-decade veteran of the Wisconsin State Patrol, he was appointed Chief and Administrator of DOA's Capitol Police Division by Secretary Marc Marotta on August 8, 2005.

On January 4, 2008 Chief Heinle retired and Deputy Chief Dan Blackdeer became the Acting Chief until Sept of 2008.

September of 2008, Chief Charles Tubbs was sworn into office.

Chief Tubbs left State Service to take a job with Dane County Emergency Management in June of 2012. Deputy Chief Dan Blackdeer  served as acting Chief until August of 2012.

In August of 2012 Capt. David M. Erwin a two-decade veteran of the Wisconsin State Patrol was named Chief of the Wisconsin State Capitol Police by Secretary Mike Huebsch.