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Sunday, January 23, 2022

ASM leadership weary of UWPD response to vote of No Confidence

Some members of the Associated Students of Madison are expressing disappointment in the UW-Madison Police Department’s limited contact and outreach with the student government following the UWPD response to a Sept. 29 vote of no confidence in the UWPD by the ASM.

The 9-5 vote stemmed from prior UWPD reactions to BIPOC activism efforts, which were discussed in a Sept. 24 meeting between ASM and UWPD leaders. 

ASM members censured the UWPD’s presence at protests located off campus. Students also expressed disapproval toward the UWPD’s refusal to accommodate multiple reforms requested by ASM representatives. These include, but are not limited to, a lack of compliance with Campaign Zero’s #8cantwait standards that advocate for change among police departments.  

ASM Chair Matthew Mitnick reflects on contact with the UWPD following last week’s vote of no confidence.

“UWPD has been in contact with some members of ASM,” Mitnick said. “However, there has been limited contact or outreach from UWPD between those that initiated and ultimately voted in support of the Vote of No Confidence. I brought up concerns with UWPD to the Chancellor and other administrators, but have not had those validated or affirmed in any way.” 

UWPD Director of Communications Marc Lovicott also discussed the conversation between ASM and UWPD following the vote of No Confidence. 

“After the vote, ASM leaders requested to put the meetings on hold until they had a chance to connect with fellow ASM members to discuss next steps and a better structure for our meetings moving forward,” said Lovicott. “We remain open to the process and look forward to restarting our meetings with ASM soon.”

“In recent weeks, we’ve received many questions about UWPD’s practices, policies and procedures,” a UWPD webpage reads. “We’ve worked to compile information that addresses the most common themes we’ve heard from you, our community, as well as those we identified as relevant to the national conversation regarding policing.”

The page contains an explanation of current UWPD activities, a commitment to further action and a message of acknowledgement from the police department. #8cantwait “project benchmarks” are also stated in alignment with UWPD “practices and policies.” 

At the next ASM meeting, student council members will vote on the creation of a new shared governance committee, the Student Safety Council. In this Council, a group of students — independent from UWPD and administration oversight — will research the UWPD budget and Standard Operating Procedures in order to compile a report of current UWPD operations and create recommendations. 

“The fact that there are supply purchase orders that contain thousands of dollars worth of redacted information is quite concerning,” Mitnick said. “If UWPD was committed to transparency and providing safety to its students, then why can't they release what they are using our tuition dollars to purchase?”

Last week, in a Tuesday, Sept. 29 discussion with members of the student press on campus, Chancellor Rebecca Blank reiterated her support for the UWPD.

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“I have not heard from any students who had an individual story to tell about a negative interaction with a specific police officer on campus,” said Blank. “I have heard students tell me they don't trust the police, that I should defund them, that they don't want the police anywhere near them. I understand the reasons why someone may feel that way. That doesn't mean we don't need a police force on this campus.”

In Blank’s discussion of UWPD, she also mentioned that UWPD Chief Kristen Roman may be gathering a student advisory group to work with UWPD, but the Student Safety Council Mitnick advocates for student representation “that does not involve admin hand-picking who they want to sit on [the Council].”

“No longer will ASM be a mouthpiece for the administration. Rather, we are here to represent the needs and concerns of students,” said Mitnick. “With this vote in particular, we hope that this can lead to tangible recommendations, established meetings, potential public hearings and maybe even a student oversight board similar to that of the Civilian Oversight Board at the City level.”

The next ASM student council meeting will be held on Tuesday Oct. 13 at 7:00 p.m. on Zoom. Mitnick has notioned toward the importance of this issue and plans to prioritize pressures surrounding the vote. A review of the Student Safety Council will occur at this meeting as well.

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