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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Gap in citizen engagement with local law enforcement, according to early look at city-funded study of MPD

How are Madison police doing? According to some long-awaited results from a major city-funded study, there’s room for improvement.

The OIR Group, a California-based consulting firm, presented preliminary results of a year-long study on the Madison Police Department throughout the year to a citizens committee Wednesday. The group worked with numerous Madison individuals, community groups and public officials to conduct its research.

While consultants called MPD an “impressive and effective,” agency, they noted officers could look at engaging the community “more proactively.”

“The foundation is there,” said consultant Mike Gennaco. “The question is how do you build on those good inclinations and get the community input to be more standardized, formalized and vibrant part of the approaches that Madison takes.”

Other recommendations include restorative justice programs, tools to gauge community input on officers, more accessible complaint and recommendation forms, expanded complaint mediation programs and data on police officers and special assignment officers.

Additionally, consultants suggested implementing a multi-staged process when responding to critical incidents, such as officer-involved shootings.Those would include several rounds of interviews of involved officers and additional administrative review.

The city council approved the study in June 2016. The study was organized by the MPD Policy Procedure & Review Ad Hoc Committee, a city initiative created following the officer-involved fatal shooting of Madison teenager Tony Robinson.

Opponents argue the study, which cost $400,000, was not an efficient use of city funds. MPD Chief Mike Koval wrote a blog post strongly criticizing the study a few days before it was released.

“When not-for-profits and community leaders and activists are begging and bemoaning funding for engagement initiatives that are urgently needed … the City is marching forward demanding a total of $400,000 to get a report card on MPD,” Koval wrote.

But since then, Koval has softened his tone on the study, writing in a Thursday blog post that MPD “appreciate[s]” the recommendations consultants offered.

“I anticipate using OIR's work to improve MPD and the service we provide to the community,” he wrote.

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