By Chris Rickert The Wisconsin State Journal
DEFOREST, Wis. — Three months after DeForest officials became aware of an 11-year-old video of the village’s police chief making racist comments, the chief has resigned with a six-figure severance package.
Daniel Furseth submitted his resignation Aug. 23, according to village president Judd Blau, and it took effect Aug. 30. He had been with the department for 29 years, including the last year as chief.
“I think it’s in the best interest for all parties involved,” Blau said. “It brings it to a resolution that we felt the community could live with.”
The 36-second video first posted to YouTube on Dec. 2, 2015, shows a group of five well-dressed black men walking from their car through a parking lot to a Steak ‘n Shake restaurant.
Using a deeply stereotypical urban black voice, Furseth narrates the action: “We’ze out on our date. We got the bitches and we gonna get ‘em and we gonna give ‘em food. Got my cane. I gots my suit. Oh baby, I got a car alarm on my Impala. All right, boys, let’s go in. This is the fanciest-ass restaurant we ever been to. And it is called the Steak and Shake.”
Furseth made the video before he was chief but after he had been promoted to a rank above patrol officer, Blau has said. Furseth told an outside investigator hired by the village that he didn’t intend the video to be racist but understood how it could be seen that way.
According to an Aug. 24 statement issued through his attorney, Furseth “deeply regrets and apologizes for the content of the videotape at issue in this matter and the impact it has had on the community and village leaders.”
“At the same time,” it goes on, “he is proud of his accomplishments as a member and leader of the DeForest Police Department and believes that his career and character are best defined by his exemplary service record, his fair and professional approach to his job, and the constructive work environment found within the department.”
Furseth on July 19 rejected the village’s offer of a $120,000 severance package in return for his resignation.
But on Aug. 7, the village board voted to file a formal complaint against him with the village’s Police Commission, which had the power to fire him. His resignation came the day the commission was set to begin deliberating his case.
Furseth’s $102,000 severance package represents the original severance offer minus what he’s been paid since being put on paid leave May 23. Blau said the village could have pursued firing Furseth instead of allowing him to resign with the payout, but the village would have had to hire an outside attorney to handle the case, and that and other costs of pursuing the firing could have ended up costing more than the severance package.
And if the commission had voted to retain Furseth, he would have had to continue working with trustees who wanted him gone, Blau said.
Furseth’s statement said he recognized “his working relationship with the village cannot be repaired and that a prolonged dispute over his employment would be detrimental to the police department to which he has dedicated decades of service.”