The former DeForest, Wisconsin, police chief who resigned in August after he was heard disparaging a group of African-American men in a YouTube video is getting a second chance.
Daniel Furseth, 50, has a new gig working as a part-time patrol officer for the town of Madison Police Department, The Wisconsin State Journal reported. Town of Madison Police Chief Scott T. Gregory, who was among Furseth’s most vocal critics after the 11-year-old clip surfaced, green-lit the controversial hiring. Town of Madison is a suburb of the far larger city of Madison, Wisconsin’s capital
“Did he make a mistake 11 years ago? Absolutely,” Gregory said. “Should he pay for that mistake the rest of his life? I don’t think so.”
Furseth resigned as police chief Aug. 23 amid backlash over a 36-second video showing a group of well-dressed Black men walking from their car to a nearby Steak n’ Shake restaurant as Furseth mockingly narrates the action in a stereotypical “Black voice.”
The racist clip sparked an investigation by the village board, which later initiated procedures with the police commission to have Furseth booted from his position, according to 27 News. It also found that the clip was uploaded to YouTube last December by Alexei Strelchenko, a disgruntled former intern with the DeForest PD.
Furseth received a $102,000 severance package from the village following his resignation. Amid the outrage, Gregory penned a letter on behalf of the Dane County Chiefs of Police Association condemning the former police chief’s actions, saying they did not reflect work departments were doing to build trust with the community.
“Just as trust is built one interaction at a time, it can also be compromised by the acts of one,” Gregory wrote at the time. “And when that one officer is a law enforcement leader, the resulting impact is even more devastating, both to our communities and our profession.”
He added, “acts of racism cannot be tolerated, and law enforcement officers, from the chief to the newly hired officer, must live up to the ideals incorporated in the Law Enforcement Oath of Honor and Code of Ethics.”
The police chief seemingly had a change of heart, however. Furseth kicked off his new job with Madison PD on Monday, Oct. 2, after proceeding through normal hiring processes, including interviews with a four-person police panel and the town’s fire and police commission.
Gregory said Furseth remains remorseful about the video and continues to apologize.
“As we looked at the investigation and looked at Dan’s experience and what he could bring to the town of Madison as a patrol officer … we decided we will give him another chance,” Gregory said, noting that the probe found no evidence of overt or explicit racial bias within the DeForest Police Department.
He told 27 News, “Of course racism doesn’t belong in law enforcement. Was the video wrong? Absolutely. If he did the video six months ago, I wouldn’t have hired him.”
The Madison police department’s decision to hire additional officers, including Furseth, drew the ire of city of Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, who said he was “disappointed” by the move.
“One has to wonder if this decision is representative of the 6,800 residents who live in the town,” Soglin said.
According to The Wisconsin State Journal, Furseth will earn $27.10 an hour as a patrol officer but must first complete a mandatory 16-week field training and evaluation program. Gregory said Furseth will also be equipped with a police body camera “so there will be plenty of times to see if there’s any bias in his policing.”
“I’m sure he’ll do everything he can to make the town look good,” Gregory added. “I know he wants to end his career on a strong note.”