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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

UWPD to bolster vetting process for outside officers working football games

The UW-Madison Police Department is implementing additional measures to vet outside police officers that will work the 2021-22 Wisconsin football games, according to UWPD Chief Kristen Roman.

Officials announced Friday that officers from outside agencies will no longer be able to work at Camp Randall if they have been subject to complaints or violations of civil rights or excessive force.

Authorities from those outside agencies will have to sign paperwork ensuring the absence of those reports.

These changes by the UW Athletic Board follow a September joint review between UW Athletics and the police department after the Black Lives Matter summer protests increased awareness of racial disparity and police brutality nation-wide. 

This also comes after Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez said Thursday afternoon that the program expects to have fans back inside Camp Randall Stadium at some capacity for the 2021 season.

“What we have done is tuning into and responding to what we have seen across the country around questions of police abuse, promoting racial equality and justice and wanting to make sure that we were using the opportunity to apply that particular lens to how we were approaching enlisting support from other agencies to police game days,” Roman said.

Additional training will now be required for guest officers, and will include more focus on mental health crisis de-escalation, materials on police bias and impartial policing.

The UWPD recruits officers from outside departments in order to meet staffing demands for Badger football games played at home. Public Information Officer Marc Lovicott has not stated how many officers from other police departments are on staff, but called the security “robust” in September after the review was announced. 

It is currently unknown how much the new standards will decrease the available pool of officers for the 2021 football season and beyond. However, Roman does not believe increased vetting will largely harm the number of qualified officers. Instead, her concern is whether or not police officers will be willing to go through the required training. 

“I don't think we're going to disqualify many people using [complaint history] because I think that's something we've always been aware of anyway in our vetting process,” Roman said. “But the additional training, and an ability to demonstrate that [training], may for some [officers] create a sense of, ‘well, that’s more time and effort than I think it’s worth.’”

Roman also said other police departments across the Big Ten have asked for the UWPD’s blueprints for the changes, so that those schools can implement their own process for the upcoming season.

“I think we’re leading the way in the Big Ten on making these specific kinds of changes,” Roman said. “But we’re always open to hearing what other campuses are doing and learning from them as well.”

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CORRECTION: This article was corrected on Feb. 22 to accurately reflect when Public Information Officer Marc Lovicott made a statement regarding staffing for football games.

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