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Friday, February 23, 2024
MPD Chief Mike Koval spoke before the Madison Police Department Policy and Procedure Review Ad Hoc Committee on issues of policing policy.

MPD Chief Mike Koval spoke before the Madison Police Department Policy and Procedure Review Ad Hoc Committee on issues of policing policy.

Police Chief and Urban League of Greater Madison CEO talk community relations

Madison Police Department Chief Mike Koval and Urban League of Greater Madison President and CEO Dr. Ruben Anthony discussed police-community relations Thursday night before the Madison Police Department Policy and Procedure Review Ad Hoc Committee.

Both communities answered five pre-determined questions from the committee on improving policing policy in Madison and how they thought it could be improved. After speaking to those questions, for Anthony, and before speaking, for Koval, the committee asked additional questions.

Koval answered far more questions than Anthony, with his session going on for more than a half hour while Anthony spoke for about half as long.

Koval said he would make the department’s role, from top to bottom, a social work culture rather than a react and respond one. He said he wants the culture to be less call-driven and restructured so that the “paradigm” of community outreach is “institutionalized.”

Responding to a question from the committee, Koval said the department has been researching other models to emulate. The department has sent two officers to the Police Executive Research Forum to investigate how their practices fall in current trends, according to Koval.

“We are constantly comparing and contrasting, looking ‘How does our model stack up?'" Koval said.

One member did ask about a recent incident at MPD’s Central District when officers were brainstorming on solutions for people who are homeless on State Street. The Isthmus reported that the whiteboard devolved from seemingly genuine ideas into cruel “jokes” about “organic lava flow” and “unlimited heroin.”

Koval did not let the question finish because the incident is under internal investigation.

Anthony, like Koval, spoke on changing the culture of policing policy, but said the department has to recreate its culture without use-of-force. In terms of police-community relations, Anthony also noted that policing policy is not isolated. He said poverty can be a “powder keg” that “goes off” when an incident involving the police occurs, citing the recent riots in Milwaukee.

“This community is a great community. And I think that Madison is a good deal, but we could mess it up,” Anthony said. “If we don’t step up and have real conversations, speak truth to power and, even if we’re wrong, be able to stand up and say we’re wrong, I don’t think we’re going to make progress. We have to have honest conversations.”

Anthony noted during his presentation that some MPD officers were doing effective community policing and were being visible at public events, especially on the south side. He also commended Koval for admitting some practices were “wrong” during the recent and controversial Laird arrest because, according to Anthony, cops have not traditionally admitted to wrongdoing.

The next committee meeting will be Oct. 6.

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