Police Reform in Madison, Wisc.

[Note: I served over 20 years as Madison’s chief of police. This is a big change. While I have argued over the years that reform best comes from an innovative, committed chief of police, I will have to say that this is a unique approach to help change police from the outside. Generally, community review boards have not worked, they have not helped to reform or improve police services. What worries me is that these moves appear to reduce the power a chief needs to make the necessary improvement changes — yet, I have to say, a chief working in consort with an independent monitor and community review board could get a lot accomplished. What has caused this “milestone?” I sense there has been a significant erosion of trust between police and community members. These changes should help to improve that. As to a unique police reform movement, Madison bears watching.]

Madison City Council Approves ‘Milestone’ Police Oversight Measures

With community members urging action, the City Council supported creating Madison’s first independent monitor and civilian review board to bring greater community accountability over the police department. 

The council’s near unanimous votes early Wednesday morning follow five years of a resident-led city Madison Police Department Policy & Procedure Review Ad Hoc Committee studying the MPD’s policies, practices and procedures and weighing input from community members and experts… 

The City Council ultimately acted to: 

• Adopt the final report of a three-member alder workgroup that developed logistics and operational details for the independent monitor and civilian review board.   

• Create an ordinance that establishes the office of the independent monitor, the monitor position and the 13-member police civilian oversight board…   

• Add the new position of independent police monitor in a category that comes with an estimated annual salary of $125,000… 

• Amend the 2020 operating budget, which includes $200,000 for a police auditor, to create the office and position of independent police monitor, provide funding for the oversight board and establish finding support for individuals bringing complaints before the Police and Fire Commission… 

The resolution also states that it’s the City Council’s intent to include at least $482,000 in the 2021 operating budget for annual costs associated with these purposes…  

Independent monitor 

The recommendations to create an independent auditor and civilian oversight board are the result of studies conducted by the OIR Group, a California-based consulting team, and the city’s ad hoc committee.

These reports noted that Madison has a historically progressive police department and positive national reputation, however, building trust “is one of the great challenges facing the MPD,” according to the ad hoc committee’s 2019 report. 

The independent auditor will have the capacity to examine policies, patterns and practices and promote long-term systemic changes on an ongoing basis. This position, which comes with a $125,000 salary, would have the power to access MPD records, issue subpoenas, develop reports and recommendations, and conduct investigations.

However, the PFC retains statutory authority to hire, fire and discipline, though the monitor can make recommendations to the commission…

The auditor could also appoint legal counsel to provide representation to those pursuing complaints against MPD personnel with the PFC…   

Civilian review board 

The auditor will report to a 13-member civilian oversight board, which will hire the monitor, conduct an annual review of the police chief and make policy recommendations to police, among other responsibilities…

Board members will be chosen by nine community organizations, including local nonprofit Urban Triage. Each organization will submit three candidates, with the mayor and City Council choosing nine from the group. The mayor and City Council will also each choose two members… 

Read the full article HERE.