While resolutions honoring longtime city employees are often unanimous among City Council members, efforts to honor retired Madison Police Department Chief Mike Koval have created controversy among city alders.
Koval himself initially rejected a proposal by Ald. Paul Skidmore, District 9, to honor his retirement from the position with a resolution.
Ald. Barbara Harrington-McKinney, District 1, put forth her own resolution on Jan. 29 to the Common Council, “expressing sincere appreciation to Koval for his years of dedicated service and congratulate him on his retirement.”
After learning of Harrington-McKinney’s resolution, Koval asked it be rescinded as well.
“During his tenure as chief, MPD has been a leader in efforts to reduce reliance on the criminal justice system and implement restorative justice initiatives,” Harrington-McKinney wrote in her resolution. “The Mayor and Common Council of the City of Madison express their sincere appreciation to Madison Police Department Chief Mike Koval for his years of dedicated service and congratulate him on his retirement.”
Koval is also noted for securing funding to open a new MPD district station for the Midtown District, improving the department’s ability to serve the community and hiring and promoting women and people of color.
However, Madison police drew criticism from the community after a series of police shootings between 2012 and 2016, which created tension between them and the Madison City Council.
A proposal was made to allocate an additional $350,000 for a consultant to examine MPD policies and procedures, following an initial review of the department after an unarmed black teen was shot and killed by a Madison police officer in 2015.
Koval responded to the council with a blog post on June 5, 2016, that appeared to threaten members of the council that questioned or criticized his department.
“To the Common Council,” Koval wrote. “You are being watched. And be on notice: this is a pre-emptive strike from me to you. I am going to push back hard when MPD is constantly used as a political punching bag and you are nowhere to be found.”
The allocation of funds was eventually approved after a four-hour council discussion in which Koval was combative with several of the alders. Since then, the relationship with the police chief and some members of the council has been strained.
Currently, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and 15 council members are listed as sponsors of Harrington-McKinney's resolution with five council members remaining unlisted, including Ald. Rebecca Kemble, District 18, and Ald. Marsha A. Rummel, District 6. Alder Samba Baldeh, District 17, agreed to be listed as a sponsor of the resolution despite past disagreements with Koval.
The resolution to honor Madison Police Department Chief Mike Koval is still listed as Item 1 on the Agenda for the Madison City Council meeting Tuesday night.