Vic Wahl was named acting chief of Madison’s Police Department during the city’s Police and Fire Commission meeting Monday following lengthy discussion on the search for a permanent chief of police.
Wahl was appointed after former Police Chief Mike Koval abruptly retired from his position after his 35-year career with the MPD.
Wahl, who previously served as assistant police chief, has been fulfilling many roles in the department, some being the police chief since Koval’s resignation. And it’s not an easy role to fill. Koval had more connections with those in the department than most chiefs, Wahl said.
However, it is not a permanent role, according to Wahl.
He said that although he will not be applying for the permanent position when it opens, he will offer as much guidance and assistance to the PFC as he can in their search for a permanent replacement.
Despite the dramatic change in leadership, the staff is doing “pretty good despite the uncertainty,” according to Wahl.
“Based on my experience, I feel very comfortable running the operations of the department,” Wahl said.
Wahl, who has been with MPD since 1991, is a seasoned member of the force — having worked under five different chiefs. He also acted as police captain of Madison’s West District station until his promotion to assistant chief three years ago.
As the highest-ranking officer on MPD’s force, Wahl acted as interim police chief in Koval’s absence — the PFC’s decision to appoint Wahl as acting chief makes the position official.
While the Police and Fire Commission searches for a new candidate to fill the position permanently, Wahl has plans of his own.
“You can’t just tread water,” Wahl said. “If there’s things to improve and things to change and areas where we need to keep the ball moving forward, I certainly intend to do that.”
Specifically, he expressed his plan to prioritize recommendations from the OIR group, addressing MPD’s procedures and operations.
Some of those recommendations included the implementation of a more structured employee performance review system, as well as the development of an improved internal punitive system.
In the past, Wahl has been a proponent for nonlethal force techniques within MPD. At the time, carrying equipment such as tasers was not commonplace.
In addition to Wahl turning down the permanent chief position, the other two assistant chiefs — Paige Valenta and John Patterson — have also indicated they will not be applying for the job.
After commenting on Wahl’s “outstanding” personnel file, Commissioner Trent Jackson again inquired on Wahl’s decision to refuse the role, asking if it’s “a hard no.”
For the time, it seems that way. As a result, the commission will have to broaden their search.
“Unless someone rises through the ranks quickly, the next chief of the MPD will be from somewhere else,” Jackson said.