As Chief, I am frequently contacted with suggestions from those who want to influence MPD policies and procedures; suggestions for new initiatives and calls for the dismantling of current protocols. These come to me through concerted letter writing campaigns, coordinated emails, community forums, via our elected officials, the legislative process, budgetary square-off's, provocative media reports, emerging "best practices," lawsuits, and new judicial precedents. All can influence change(s) in local policing. I am ultimately responsible for directing MPD priorities and practices. I do not make decisions impulsively or in a vacuum; I listen to many voices...including my management team....and use multiple sources of information before crafting the path that I believe is in the best interests of public safety for Madison. And, of course, decisions must ultimately comport with three questions: Is it legal? Is it ethical? Is it consistent with our mission statement and core values?
But some things should never change in policing. Like remembering the fact that as officers of the court, we are sworn to uphold constitutional safeguards. A chief should also be reminding officers and constituents that the "process" elements of good policing must adhere to precepts of "fundamental fairness," and "due process." We live in a country where institutions like the police are looked to for not only upholding the rule of law, but policing in a way that treats individuals humanely, and with dignity and respect. Thank goodness we are blessed to live where the "ends do not necessarily justify the means," and constitutional constraints are essential for both police power(s) and limitations. And yet, I am concerned that "process" issues have been thrown into overdrive at levels far beyond the pale of what one police chief and one department can do. Be that as it may, MPD is going to do its best to remain true to policing our City in a way that places people, rights, and common decency above all else.
Over the past several months, we have all witnessed disturbing trends. Our nation finished the last quarter of the year with a pronounced increase in the reporting of "hate" crimes, particularly toward Muslims. I have attended many community gatherings at the invitation of Masood Akhtar (advocate and entrepreneur) and Alder Samba Baldeh dating back to last summer. At each and every one of these events, I am contacted by people who are disturbed about heightened tensions and by outright acts of racism. Police response and prosecutorial efforts must be swift and unequivocal. Attacks or acts of hate committed against one group are a crime against us all and our vigilance must remain undaunted.
I have been doing a radio call-in show on La Movida (Spanish radio) for the past several months. Callers can ask anything they want and the theme invariably defaults to fear about imminent deportation. Caller after caller describe stories of abject fears and worry. Sometimes it is being pulled over for driving, or showing up at a school parent/teacher conference, or an episode of bullying at a playground; one woman was convinced that her unpaid parking tickets would trigger a "flag" for Homeland Security! And now that we have even greater uncertainty over what the slew of "Executive Actions" will mean, the level of trepidation is off the charts and I am left to wonder how this will affect and impact the day-to-day movements and activities of our residents. . .
For the past several weeks, I have been examining our Code of Conduct and considering what, if any, changes need to be made. We already are firm in stating that we are not an enforcement arm of the federal government when it comes to immigration issues. We do not participate in a program which functionally "deputizes" our officers as federal agents. We do not use our lawful authority to stop, detain, or arrest individuals on the pretext of looking for undocumented immigrants. We do not ask or check for proof of citizenship. And we do not cooperate in federal investigations whose only objective is to round up people who are undocumented. But perhaps I could go further . . .
I also met with Mayor Soglin and his Deputy, Gloria Reyes, and have heard them state in public the same things I have been told in private: Madison will not fall prey to the unilateral mandates being issued in Washington. Weeks ago, Alder Baldeh organized a community forum on "knowing your rights" that was held this past Sunday at the Monona Terrace Convention Center. Like the 2500 or so people that attended, I was anxious to listen. The speakers made me realize my worst fears. It was encouraging to see and hear elected officials and community activists expressing a tone of support, advocacy and solidarity. Yet, strong rhetoric and affirmative pledges to bring about changes through legislative counter punches or lawsuits can only go so far and can take time. The people who need to get to work, go to school, and take their families to worship, need greater proof that institutions, like the police, will enable them to go about pursuing their "normal" lives.
Recently, I had a meeting with another prominent voice of the Latinx community, Alder Shiva Bidar-Sielaff. Alder Bidar-Sielaff advised me that now, more than ever, she was feeling a sense of panic and urgency from members of her community. To that end, Alder Bidar-Sielaff was exploring various legal options and was also willing to provide an insight for my benefit. She readily acknowledged that MPD had much to point to and be proud of in terms of our words and actions in upholding rights and championing access. However, Alder Bidar-Sielaff also queried whether the Code of Conduct, as written, goes far enough? It was a timely conversation insofar as I had already been evaluating what was codified and contemplating strengthening the language.
I have decided to provide greater clarity and broader application(s) to our Code of Conduct and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP's) relative to the MPD position on "Enforcement of Immigration Laws" due to concerns taking place at the national level.
It is my hope that these changes will further affirm our commitment to providing qualitative services to ALL of our residents while also providing some measure of comfort that MPD will not be engaging in/with ICE in matters that are only concentrated on deportation.
Code of Conduct #8 Enforcement of Immigration Laws: http://www.cityofmadison.com/police/documents/codeConduct.pdf