Stu Levitan welcomes back to the show Rob Zaleski for another conversation about conversations – the 19 interviews he had with former Madison Police Chief David Couper, just published as David Couper Beyond the Badge: Reflections of an Ex-Cop.
In a city which has had many interesting and controversial police chiefs, David Couper stands out. He took command Jan. 2 1973 and ushered in a series of policy and personnel reforms that many residents applauded but many officers resisted – all while was suffering a battery of personal trials and tribulations, which would continue for decades. Then in 1993 he did something no one expected – he retired from the police department to become an Episcopal priest.
Getting beyond the Couper headlines and into Couper’s head is the business which occupies Rob Zaleski in Beyond the Badge. It’s business he is well-equipped to pursue, having interviewed thousands of people, including David Couper, in his 40 years in journalism, including 26 years with The Capital Times.
Rob was born and raised in working-class neighborhood Bay View, on Milwaukee’s south side. He studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee but de-matriculated in his junior year to become assistant sports editor of the Waukesha Freeman. He worked at the Milwaukee Journal and several small dailies in the early 1970s before joining United Press International’s Madison bureau ion 1976, where he was a night editor and covered the Green Bay Packers and University of Wisconsin sports.
He was named sports editor of The Capital Times in 1981, later took a job with the LA Times, but couldn’t take the traffic, and in 1985 returned to the Cap Times as a columnist, racking up more than a dozen writing awards over the next 23 years.
Beyond the Badge is Rob’s second q and a book with an interesting and accomplished public man, following 2019’s Ed Garvey Unvarnished: Lessons from a Visionary Progressive. That book was the focus of his first appearance on Madison BookBeat, on May 4, 2020, and kinda had something to do with this book getting written. His first book was a novel in 2012, Searching for Sal” which featured a character clearly based on Couper.