david a isthmus

David C. Couper

My book, Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption, and the Seven Necessary Steps to Improve Our Nation’s Police, describes my journey which brought me from patrol officer to chief of police in seven short years.   In Minneapolis, I was a cop by night and university student by day during those tumultuous years in the late 1960s.  My formal education changed not only how I viewed the world, but also opened me to a new and radical idea of police being partners in improving American society. My book, scheduled to be released in April, 2012, takes the reader through the history of American police and their missed opportunities. It is an important work that needs to be read by those who wish to see our society live up to its professed values as well as for those who wish to serve those values as police officers.

Throughout my 30+ year police career I’ve had a burning desire to see police improve – I always thought police could be more than they were — like defenders our Constitution and Bill of Rights and “social workers in blue.” It all came together when I was appointed chief of police in Madison (WI). It was there that I spent over twenty years transforming the department into a national and international model. I ended the “war at home;” a bitter and brutal battle between protesters and Madison police during the Vietnam war years. But what makes this book different from other police books is that they are often about sensational crimes and incidents or about embarrassing or exposing police — not about improving them and certainly not over a twenty year period. I can “walk my talk” when I describe how I improved a city police department. Yes, police can be improved and they can, and should, protect our rights while continuously improving the systems in which they work. So, let’s start talking about it…

17 Responses to “About”

  1. WOW, talk about bring back memories of my time working with David Couper. He indeed was a visionary, and obviously still is. He made more changes in the Madison PD than anyone else I know, and all for the good of the department, even though there were many people who didn’t agree with him at the time. He made the department what it is today, and I am proud to say I worked for that department.

  2. Howdy, I’m active with CopBlock.org – a site that solicits submissions from those in its decentralized network. Recently one was received by your wife. I attempted to respond to the email address associated but my message bounced-back. I thought I’d share with you the email in case there is any synergy. Thanks for your time.


    Sabine, thanks for reaching-out and sharing with CopBlock.org a bit about your husband’s latest book.

    Would you be willing to send me a copy of the book to read then at some point in the future David I could discuss the ideas covered? That could be facilitated via text online – one of us do a write-up (perhaps me as a book review) then he respond (and we could even go another iteration). Or we could discuss on video via a service similar to Skype?

    I ask because while he and I both recognize flaws in the current structure of law enforcement, we advocate different solutions. I think it would make for an interesting conversation.

    And just a little about me in case he has interest: I used to live in Eagan and went to school for law enforcement. I never worked in that capacity though I interned at St. Paul PD. After school I worked in DC’s libertarian think tank world and then became active with other projects like Motorhome Diaries, Liberty On Tour, and now Free Keene and Cop Block.

  3. I was quite moved by your talk at yesterday’s Vets For Peace ceremony… and what I’ve been reading about you and your work… plus what I’ve heard about you. I’m extremely grateful for what you’ve done for Madison… and beyond. It strongly supports the peace and reconciliation work I’m doing in Madison… healing many unresolved wounds from the turbulent era you inherited in 72.

    I and others who were here doing the turbulent years (and later left for many years) have found ourselves drawn back in recent years… to better understand what happened then, what is needed now, and what our roles are… weaving a lifetime of learning, exploring, grieving, and healing into a new and more life-serving paradigm.

    I am hosting a series of ceremonies and rituals in the days leading up to the recall election… including an ascension pilgrimage to the top of ‘The Temple of the People’ (capitol)… calling on a higher power for higher perspective, purpose, and possibilities. If this calls to you, I welcome your presence and essence.

    In any case, I would love to talk.

    Carl Landsness

    • Thanks, Carl, for your comments.

      For those who might be interested, here are the comments I made yesterday at the Veteran’s for Peace Memorial Day Remembrance in James Madison Park yesterday:


      Thank you for inviting me to be with you this important day.

      I spent a decade in the Marines on both active and reserve duty. In my generation, those who followed World War II, we felt that being a soldier, sailor, Marine or airman was being a peacekeeper.

      I continued that quest for peacekeeping in my three decades as a police officer. I believed the reason I carried a gun was to keep the peace.

      After my retirement from the police, my youngest daughter joined the army. She recently returned from a year in Afghanistan. She is a career soldier. She thinks of herself as a peacekeeper.

      One of my granddaughters is now in Rwanda. She is a member of our Peace Corps. She also is a peacekeeper.

      Peacekeeping in our nation is an essential task and one that should never be forgotten or diminished in any way.

      Now I serve as a member of the Christian clergy. Peacekeeping is still my vision and goal. And that is why I am a member of Veterans For Peace.

      After all, the vision and goal of all the enduring religions of the world is peace (in spite of how many of our religious leaders try and demonize one another and how we distort Truth for our own purposes).

      But we know that peace is obtained and maintained through love of one’s fellow human beings and destroying them is not loving them.

      The absence of peace is something of which we are all aware of. It is conflict and we, as a nation, have been in conflict for far too long.

      When speaking about conflict, Ghandi said it best: He objected to violence because “when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”

      The good is only temporary.

      The evil it does is permanent.

      So how do we obtain and maintain peace and avoid the evil of violence?

      First of all, it is impossible to create peace outside of us unless we first create peace inside of us.

      For most of us, this is a lifetime journey. But a journey, nevertheless, that is necessary for each one of us to embark upon.

      Because peace begins inside of us and then can influence spheres of our life outside of us – at home, in our other relationships, in our neighborhood, workplaces, and communities.

      We will never be a nation at peace until we, as a people, are willing to create peaceful hearts, homes and villages…

      My new book about improving police (“Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief…”) is about helping our nation’s police become better peacekeepers and protectors of our civil rights.

      In writing the book, I identified four major obstacles that prevent police from improving and achieving these two goals—1-anti-intellectualism, 2-violence, 3-corruption, and 4-discourtesy.
      I soon came to see that I was not just talking about police, but about how all of us should act…

      Anti-intellectualism…distaining learning, research and the opinions of others…

      • Violence…in both words and actions… using violence to teach others in our society (including our children) that violence is wrong.

      • Corruption… a broad range of faults from being dishonest with our self as well as in our dealings with others.

      • Discourtesy… the incivilities in our daily lives, dis-respecting others, thinking other people are less than we are or deserve less than what we have. It is the opposite of our Golden Rule…

      And the seven necessary steps I identified for police to overcome the four obstacles in my book are also many of the steps we all need to take so that one day we may no longer know war and use it to further our attempts to dominance others at home or abroad.

      1. Envision – what is our vision of the future? Is it for obtaining and maintaining peace?
      2. Select – do the friends we choose, the people around us share our vision?
      3. Listen – do we deeply and intently listen to each other… even those whose opinions differ from ours?
      4. Train and Lead – do we attempt to learn the art of peacekeeping? And once having learned it, do we have the courage to lead others in it?
      5. Continuously improve – once having begun to learn peacekeeping, will we try to better our methods and our lives?
      6. Evaluate – do we check up on how we are doing? are we “walking our talk?” – Improving?
      7. Sustain – once having embarked on a more peaceful life, will we work to continue our peacekeeping efforts into the future?

      Brothers and sisters, I am honored to share this Memorial Day with you.

      Let us never forget those who serve our nation – whether we as a collective were right or wrong, they stepped forward, they served their nation, and they paid the greatest price. And they paid it for us.

      We should always be thankful for their sacrifice.

      Let us never forget.

      Let this day, as our President proclaimed, be a Day of Prayer for Permanent Peace.

      And let us never shirk our call and duty to be peacekeepers – at home, at work, and in our neighborhoods.

      For when we do, we are blessed — and we bless others.

  4. Hi David, I figured this powerful tribute film to Law Enforcement may interest you. Please check out the below links for additional information on the Heroes Behind the Badge trailer. The film will be complete mid September and is being produced in association with the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund. Please spread the word to help support our fellow Law Enforcement Heroes, and thanks for your time, Bill

    Trailer: http://youtu.be/TMJCOEOGYgg
    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/heroesbehindthebadge

  5. Your blog was included in our round-up of the Top Law Enforcement Blogs at http://bestcriminaljustice.com/top-law-enforcement-blogs Congratulations! We also have badges if you would like to show your readers that you have made the list. Just send me an email.

  6. HonorYourOath (Jeff Gray) Reply December 30, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    Thanks for your courage Chief Couper.

  7. Hello,

    I’m writing to let you know that your blog has been selected for inclusion in our list of the Top 25 Police and Detective Blogs of 2012. Blogs were selected by our editors based on the quality and frequency of posts over the course of 2012.

    You can view the list of blogs at http://www.topcriminaljusticedegrees.org/top-police-and-detective-blogs-of-2012/.


    J. Shane
    Managing Editor

  8. Thank you so much for such a thoughtful and inspiring blog. Also thank you for working to make a positive impact on the world.

  9. So I was standing at the bottom of Ridgeview Road staring thoughtfully at my broken spoke and warped front wheel, and working to persuade myself that walking a couple miles up the back of Blue Mounds to the village (and my car) in my socks pushing the bike and carrying my cleated shoes – would only add to my appreciation for the landscape and enhance my training, when a pickup stopped and the lady inside asked if I could use a ride. So thank you again SABINE. Just so you know, I’m paying it forward!

    Second, thank you David especially for your blog about dominance policing – and culture. I found it very meaningful and helpful in many, many ways. Just so you know, you can also find your essay here; http://www.luther.edu/ideas-creations-blog/?story_id=589288&comment_posted_id=591728

    Bless you both.


  1. Dreaming in Blue | Bright Blue Line - November 15, 2013

    […] David Couper […]

  2. Butterfly Light! & ‘How I’m spreading light.’ | Blogger at the Edge of the Universe. - April 10, 2014

    […] With all that out of the way, I will now nominate a bunch of amazing bloggers that should accept this cool award: Thea Beckman: http://whybecausescience.com/about/ Jenna Rambles: http://jennaramblesblog.com/about/ J Haines: http://jhaines6.wordpress.com/about-me/ David C Couper: http://improvingpolice.wordpress.com/about/ […]

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