Reading in Baraboo

A recent article in the Portage Daily News.

Photos from “The Booksmith,” Saturday, April 28 in Baraboo.



Former Police Chief David Couper Pens Book

 By Brian D. Bridgeford, The Portage Daily News, Capital Newspapers

America’s police forces could do a lot to improve their relationship with the public, but often are unwilling to do so, a former Madison police chief turned Episcopal priest said Saturday.

Former Madison Police Chief David Couper spoke before a Baraboo audience at the Village Booksmith to promote his book “Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police.” The book is an autobiographical journey and history, he said.

Bookstore proprietor Annie Randall said as a young student in Madison she remembers thinking police could have done a better job after witnessing the 1960s-era conflicts between police and anti-war demonstrators.

It was “hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys,” she said.

Randall said she noticed a marked improvement after Couper took over the Madison Police Department in 1972.

“When the police came I was thinking ‘here come the police, they must be going to help somebody,’” she said. “Rather than thinking, for who knows what reason I was going to be thrown on the sidewalk.”

After retiring in 1993, Couper became an Episcopal priest and served for nearly a decade in Portage, Randall said. Now he is pastor at a church in North Lake.

Couper said he was moved to write the book after attending a 2005 meeting in Washington, D.C. at which police chiefs were supposedly gathered to discuss how management techniques used to create high-performance companies could be used to make better police departments.

The police chiefs, many he knew, were generally not interested in using those insights, he said.

American police departments often are afflicted with obstacles that keep them from moving forward, Couper said. They include an attitude of anti-intellectualism and the idea no one can teach police chiefs about their own organization.

“Even if it’s another police organization, it does not apply to me,” Couper said about how some view advice.

Couper said he is concerned about police resorting to violence as their first option in dealing with situations. He pointed to actions by some police during the recent occupy protests around the country.

“We’ve seen that in that sergeant on the University of California campus at Davis pepper spraying a group of student who were merely sitting on the quadrangle,” Couper said.

There is corruption in which officers get money for not enforcing the law, or officers breaking the law to get people charged, he said.

Couper said his fourth big concern is officers being discourteous in their interactions with the public

“It’s possible to learn to be courteous in just about anything you do,” he said.

Changing the four issues will result in police officers who are smarter, restrained, honest and courteous, he said.

Couper said his seven steps to improve policing includes chiefs who are willing to listen and police agencies that dedicate themselves to continuous improvement, in the same way industries do.

He said he also supports more education among law enforcement officials, including bachelor’s degrees and higher. That includes philosophy, sociology, art and an appreciation of the public’s right to free speech.

“The kind of stresses that are upon them, is they’re going to have to have the big picture,” Couper said.

“Arrested Development” is available at the Village Booksmith in downtown Baraboo or online at sources such as