Too ‘Happy’: Police film music video while on duty

By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department wants to be more hip, well-liked and approachable.

HAPPY, TAXPAYERS?” Employees with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department were on duty when they filmed a rendition of a popular Pharrell Williams song.

To help accomplish that goal, the taxpayer-supported agency decided to gather close to 25 of its employees in May to record a musical rendition of Pharrell Williams’ popular song, “Happy.”

But it was all done while the police force – including Chief Susan Riseling – was on duty.

“They should not be doing this kind of thing,” Orville Seymer, field coordinator for Citizens for Responsible Government, told Wisconsin Reporter.

Shooting the 3-minute video took about 45 minutes. UW-Madison police spokesperson Marc Lovicott spent several hours editing and producing the recording, according to Riseling.

While the cost to the public may be small, Seymer criticized the department for filming the footage on the taxpayer’s dime when “its employees should have been protecting and serving the community.”

“Instead of wasting time on this, they should be patrolling streets and arresting criminals,” Seymer told Wisconsin Reporter.

Jim Strand, president of the Waukesha Taxpayers League, also questions the need for the video. He said he would be more willing to support the production if it provided valuable information, like warning students not to hitchhike.

Still, Riseling and Lovicott are defending the “Happy” video, saying it should help enhance the department’s public image.

“We want students, staff and faculty to approach us with issues, problems, fears, concerns, need for information, and any other public service we can give them as our community,” Riseling told Wisconsin Reporter in an email. “In order to do that we have to show we have a sense of humor and we are up to date on the latest things in their world.”

But Seymer is skeptical that college students will change their minds just from a short musical number.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been that young, but I don’t see any real benefit to the taxpayers for doing this video,” Seymer said.

The UW-Madison Police Department, which does not have a budget for public relations, has produced other taped programs in the past, but Lovicott says those closely resembled public service announcements that dealt with such issues as active shooters, moped safety and crime prevention.

The “Happy” video is the first production the law enforcement agency has done independently that is “lighter and more tongue-in-cheek,” according to Lovicott.

“I work hard to ‘humanize’ our department and make our officers approachable and well-liked in our community,” Lovicott said.

Check out the UW-Madison Police Department’s “Happy” video here:

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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