Madison police-chief-turned-priest’s memoir, other books share wisdom

New books by and about Wisconsin elders share wisdom, pugnacity and life experience in distinctly personal combinations.

“David Couper Beyond the Badge: Reflections of an Ex-Cop,”

by Rob Zaleski. Little Creek Press.

Marine veteran David Couper spent two stormy decades (1972-’93) as Madison’s chief of police, hiring Black and female officers and promoting community policing practices while frequently battling union leadership and the old guard. Then he stunned the community by announcing his departure from him to become an Episcopal priest. Now in his 80s, he continues to serve at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in North Lake, and to write and speak out on policing and other issues.

He’s an unusual man; Zaleski, a longtime columnist and reporter at The Capital Times in Madison, has written an unusual book about him. It’s a kind of spiritual memoir structured in Q&A format; sometimes, the conversation between subject and interviewer turns into true dialogue between the two men. Zaleski, who previously helped Couper edit a book of his own, clearly admires him, though the former chief’s mistakes and wrong decisions are frankly discussed.

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