With the recent release of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department’s updated Purchasing Records from the past year along with the Associated Students of Madison’s recent vote of no confidence, many students are wondering about the UWPD’s role in student life on campus and its finances.
Along with ASM, the BIPOC Coalition, the Teaching Assistants Association and the Abolitionist Geography Collective all began the work to abolish and/or reform the UWPD.
In the 2018-19 fiscal year, $12.8 million, or 0.4 percent of UW’s budget, of which one-fifth was paid for by student tuition, was allocated to UWPD, according to the university’s 2019 Budget Report.
UWPD is funded primarily by the university’s general fund, which is a mix of state and federal funding and tuition revenue, according to Meredith McGlone, the university’s director of communications. Tuition revenue is placed into a general fund that funds a multitude of campus operations, including UWPD.
ASM controls approximately $30 million of student segregated fees through their governing body, the Student Services Finance Committee (SSFC). The SSFC allocates funds to various student groups on campus, and they do not go towards funding UWPD, which renders this recent vote of no confidence primarily symbolic.
Chancellor Rebecca Blank has stated that she understands the reasons that some students may feel uncomfortable with police, but that those feelings do not mean the university itself should be a police-free campus.
“Our community has a wide range of public safety needs that need to be and are met by UWPD,” Chancellor Blank said in a statement. “I recognize and support community efforts to protest long-standing injustices within law enforcement and the legal system, especially as it relates to the Black community. But I believe UWPD has been responsive to this moment.”
The no-confidence vote comes in the wake of an ASM meeting last week when members criticized the UWPD’s presence at protests this summer and the department’s failure to fully adopt proposed reforms which include those outlined by #8cantwaitstandards.
“I think ASM and the student body as a whole are the ones who have the power over UWPD because we are the ones who pay their salary and their budget through our tuition dollars,” said Matthew Mitnick, ASM chair. “We’re the ones who they ultimately are serving, [and] we are the ones that are the product of whatever actions they take.”
It is currently unknown to the general public what percent of student tuition money is allocated to funding the UWPD, according to McGlone. A multitude of student body organizations such as ASM have requested access to the specific allocation statistic, but none have received them, according to Mitnick.
On Oct. 13, ASM passed their vote of no confidence in UWPD in a 9-5 vote. Following this decision, Chief of UWPD Kristin Roman released a statement regarding the vote.
“I am disappointed,” Roman said in her statement. “Not in the questions themselves, or the specific requests for change, but for not being given the opportunity to engage in a full process prior to this vote ... I believe my demonstrated willingness to engage openly and honestly and UWPD’s overall service record has, at a minimum, earned us that opportunity.”
The next steps that ASM intends to take after the vote of no confidence surround their power and access as an institution.
For example, UWPD works very closely with University Health Services, an entity that is funded by student segregated fees. UWPD often assumes the role of transporting students from UHS to the university hospital, prompting students to ask why the Department needs to be involved at all. s,
“There is the potential for some of what we make recommendations on or expressly control that interact with UWPD and we're trying to find ways that we can leverage those powers to broaden this overall campaign,” Mitnick said.
When UWPD Director of Communications Marc Lovicott was asked for an interview, he declined, saying newsrooms had already “covered the story extensively.”.
“We’re working hard on our relationship with ASM and other community groups — this was a priority of ours even before the ASM vote, three weeks ago,” Lovicott said. “Your paper and others covered the story extensively. That said, we would prefer not to dwell on the past. We’re looking forward to continuing our work with ASM and building a positive relationship with its members.”
Mitnick called for Marc Lovicott and Chief Roman’s resignation over the malicious tweets that were targeted at him and the ASM body as whole after the vote of no confidence.
“This whole situation has been incredibly disappointing. Nobody said anything publicly regarding the tweet, which means they don’t care and they don’t give a crap about anyone,” Mitnick said. “The right thing to do would be to fire Marc Lovicott and Chief Roman because they publicly said that they consulted and published that tweet with consent of UWPD leadership. I don’t want to make it all about that specific tweet, but it just further exemplifies that they can't deal with criticisms and they’ll resort to these types of tactics to get what they want.”