Baraboo Police Chief Mark Schauf says he wants to correct the record about a letter to the editor criticizing local police and healthcare workers that appeared in the Baraboo News Republic earlier this week.
A letter printed Monday left the impression that a Baraboo Police Department officer was reluctant to help an elderly dementia patient caught in the cold.
Schauf said that was not correct. A police officer not only responded to the scene and gave the woman a ride to her house, but also followed up with her family to talk through solutions and make sure the same situation never presents itself in the future.
“So not only did it sound in the letter like we didn’t care, we cared so much that we wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again,” Schauf said.
The confusion came about because the letter writer, Lawrence Gillick of Baraboo, mistakenly identified an off-duty officer from a different agency as a Baraboo police officer.
Last week while driving through Baraboo, Gillick saw the woman struggling in the freezing cold as she walked along Crawford Street. The woman could not communicate, so he drove her into town and helped her warm up.
Gillick then came upon two vehicles, one from a law enforcement agency and another from a local hospital, and asked the drivers to help the woman. In his letter, Gillick said the two people were reluctant to provide assistance.
Schauf said the officer from a different agency who Gillick spoke with was off-duty, and actually did call the situation into dispatch. He said a Baraboo officer then responded to the scene after Gillick left.
The chief said his agency is committed to doing all it can to make Baraboo a dementia-friendly community.
In a phone interview Friday, Gillick said he was mistaken when he wrote that the officer he spoke with was a Baraboo police officer. Nevertheless, he stood by his position that the two people he flagged down could have done more to help.
He said the woman was extremely cold and shivering. He was aware that the officer he spoke with called dispatch to report the situation, but that it seemed more could have been done to assist the woman until a Baraboo officer arrived.
“I drove slowly away down Crawford Street and those cars sat idly the whole time as she was walking out of sight,” Gillick said. “Yeah, he called it in to have someone else do it, but it just didn’t seem right to put that off on someone else.”