Tosa police chief says protester list 'taken out of context' in exclusive interview with CBS 58

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WAUWATOSA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Wauwatosa's police chief is at odds with critics who disagree with his department's practice of keeping tabs on protesters.

In fact, he's defending the so-called "protester list" and says it's working.

Chief James MacGillis doesn't call it a protester list. Rather, he says protesters' names were included in an investigative report, compiled just like police departments around the country compile reports every day.

We sat down with Chief MacGillis on this, his second week on the job.

"I've seen a lot of death in my career," he said. "I've seen a lot of tragedy and what I'm trying to do is prevent that from happening."

Chief MacGillis showed us bodycam from a small protest last week at North and 76th. As the officer tried to make an arrest, protesters closed in.

"I'm trying to stop clashes like this," Chief MacGillis said. "I'm trying to stop the potential for the use of force."

The reason for the arrest -- a gunman was threatening a woman and her kids in a car.

"And if you look to the left, where the cursor is pointing, there is a person who is pointing a rifle at the windshield of the car," MacGIllis said. "And I just think about that poor mother in the car who just had a rifle thrust in her face. It could've been violent in an instant."

The investigative report containing pictures of protesters helped police identify the gunman.

"It's not for nefarious purposes," Chief MacGIllis said. "It's to help further the ends of public safety and it's being taken out of context."

Wauwatosa police have come under fire for the list. 

Attorney Kimberley Motley says it's concerning to hear someone on it is now connected to a crime.

"This list was created over a year ago," Motley said. "And the fact that someone may have been arrested the other day is irrelevant to why this list was created."

"The officers of the Wauwatosa Police Department are professional, they're ethical, they're doing the right things," Chief MacGillis said.

Chief MacGillis says First Amendment rights of protesters should be protected. What he's trying to stop is escalating violence.

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