When a city-funded review of the Madison Police Department was published in December, the work toward police reform had taken its first step.
Last week, the department and the city attorney released their official response to the study, furthering the process even more.
But now, the work toward reform is in the hands of city officials and committee leaders tasked with reviewing the department.
At the forefront of this discussion is the city’s Madison Police Department Policy and Procedure Review Ad Hoc Committee, a group of Madison residents who will decide how to move forward in light of the report’s recommendations.
Matthew Braunginn, a member of that committee, says he believes improving accountability is a major place of improvement.
“One of the biggest issues is how do we hold officers accountable especially when our laws give a lot of leeways to officer discretion,” said Braunginn, who is also a senior associate at the Center on Wisconsin Strategy with the Mayor’s Innovation Project and a co-founder of the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition.
A notable recommendation by the report was the need for the department to have an independent auditor’s office that reported to a citizen review body. In their response, the department noted the body would come at a cost to the city and advised it be free of political influence.
Braunginn said that asking for more resources has never been a previous worry to the department, saying the department’s budget has never been cut.
“To me it’s completely hypocritical to put cost as a concern when MPD doesn’t put cost as a concern for its own budget,” he said.
MPD Chief Michael Koval said his department is open to the idea but it would be odd if the money came from his budget.
“I can’t fund that, nor should I. It just does not have a good optic look that I’m funding an independent arbiter,” Koval told The Daily Cardinal.
Where Koval said he’d like to make strides immediately would be in improving police engagement but noted “that requires more bodies.” Mayor Paul Soglin agreed real engagement requires time but doesn’t know where those additional cops would come from.
“If you take the number officers just out on the streets doing routine work on any given day, we’re pretty well, as thin as we ought to be,” Soglin said in an interview.
Moving forward, Braunginn said there is significant work ahead to sift through the recommendations centered around dialogue and community involvement.
“This is going to be far from a rubber stamp,” he said. “I’m sure every single person on the committee doesn’t agree with everything in the OIR report as far as recommendations moving forward for various reasons.”
Braunginn acknowledged that between discussions within the committee and the eventual discussions among city alders, the road ahead is messy.
“We want to get this right,” he said. “We’re not here to rush through the process just to put out recommendations. We want to put something out that’s doable at the same time.”