During the past four years as a student at UW-Madison, I have questioned the value of the Associated Students of Madison (ASM). I have often seen them take absurd votes and waste time on all or nothing approaches. However, I believe there is value in student government which accurately represents the opinions of the student body.
I thought that I could offer some reason into the organization and perhaps serve as a mediator. I applied for, and was selected to serve on the University of Wisconsin Police Department (UWPD) Advisory Council as an ASM representative. Our Police Advisory Council (PAC) worked to improve dialogue between the police and community. We offered valuable feedback to their website, uniforms, equipment, and hiring procedures among many others. We helped improve relations and increase dialogue between the police and students long before the horrendous act by a Minneapolis Police officer. The council was a great first step to create a line of dialogue between all interested parties.
Recently, a microscope has been placed on police across the nation and people have lashed out at their own police departments, regardless of what policies they practice. Madison — and UWPD specifically — is not alone. Last week ASM and UWPD leadership held a meeting where ASM’s demands were discussed, demands that were sent out only 24 hours before. UWPD agreed to work on some changes, like reinstating the safety council, but could not agree to other measures, like banning officers from residents halls. Nevertheless, a common purpose of fostering dialogue and a continued work on policy reform was agreed upon.
Days later, ASM decided to hold a vote-of-no-confidence in UWPD, because they would not agree to all demands, despite how extreme some were. Police cannot deal in absolutes. One such UWPD policy subject to ASM criticism included not offering three warnings to all suspects prior to using deadly force. What should officers do in active shooter situations? Are they to ask the shooter to put down their weapon and wait for a response as precious seconds go by? No, certain situations require officer discretion.
Declaring no confidence in UWPD, despite their continued willingness to work with ASM and the community, demonstrates a lack of unity and organization in ASM. It appears as if the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. One day further discussions are planned, the next there is a vote against UWPD. ASM fails to look at the policies already implemented by UWPD as a measure of the department’s willingness to work together. I am shocked that ASM did not allow Chief Kristen Roman to speak as a member of the public, although maybe I shouldn’t be that surprised.
Maybe it’s time we take a vote of no confidence in members of ASM, who are elected in elections with 7% student turnout. Sitting on our hands and saying “this isn’t fair” is not the proper way to move forward. We must work together to move forward!
Alex is a senior majoring in Economics and Political Science. Do you think the vote of no-confidence in the UWPD is justified? Send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org