This week, the City of Madison Common Council will be voting on a resolution to authorize another $350,000 (in addition to the original $50,000) to study the City of Madison Police Department's policies/procedures/practices/training/culture and anything else that can be thrown in for good measure. From the initial suggestion of an ad hoc committee to study MPD "Policy" to the currently-constituted RFP, my mantra has been the same: "Bring it on. We have nothing to hide and much to brag about." We will accept an independent review of the way we do business. I am confident that our "report card" will demonstrate the myriad of good things that are taking place by great employees.
Frankly, I believe that the vote on Tuesday by the alders is already a done deal and the resolution will fly through with little or no opposition. (To do otherwise would be tantamount to "treason" for those who wring their hands worried about currying favor with a small group of people who protest/blog/criticize the MPD at every turn. The "perpetually offended" of Madison who use their small but vocal numbers to dictate agendas has an incredible grip on this City . . .but no one dares to raise a voice lest they be marginalized in the PC world of Madison. I have found a solution that I am willing to share with the alders--- do what you believe is right, what your constituents demand, and what's important NOW)! In any event, I will not be voicing any objection to an independent review, if asked to comment.
MPD is intent on creating, supporting, and supplementing the kinds of programs and partnerships that attempt to drill down on societal problems that can manifest on our streets as desperate acts by desperate individuals. Policing IS a form of social work and we are eager to expand our outreach and engagement activities. But at the end of the day, the police are ill-equipped to be the primary source of parenting and educating our kids, job creation, providing affordable housing, dealing with issues of homelessness or drug abuse. Certainly, we will do our level best to complement (not replace) families, schools, churches, neighborhoods, not-for-profits, and social service providers in meeting the challenges that lay before our City; but if nothing changes on these various fronts, I dare say that a pristine, "model" police department trying to do everything within our statutory power(s), will STILL have statistics that reflect racial disparities.
To the taxpayers of Madison who pay my salary and fund the MPD: Don't confuse a willingness to be reviewed with a separate question associated with the cost(s) to conduct such an assessment. That's a different discussion altogether. When not-for-profits and community leaders and activists are begging and bemoaning funding for engagement initiatives that are urgently needed, particularly as we head into summer months with youth out of schools and in dire need of constructive options, the City is marching forward demanding a total of $400,000 to get a report card on MPD. Heck! Why stop there? Why don't we double that amount? For a City that claims to be on brink of fiscal ruin, if this is so damn urgent and this Department is spiraling out of control, then money should be of no object! Never mind the fact that this Department has met and exceeded the majority of those recommendations offered to local agencies by the guidelines enunciated by President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Never mind the fact that the MPD has no sustained civil rights violations with the U.S. Department of Justice. Never mind that this Department is called on a weekly basis and asked about how we recruit such a well-educated, diverse workforce? Never mind that we are asked about our trainings in cultural competency, unconscious bias, crisis intervention and mental health initiatives.
By the way, City officials . . .this is a labor contract year for many, I need more cops, and I certainly don't want any more delays with Midtown. You tell us the cupboard is bare and there is no money---for anything. But the City will go into their financial reserve fund for $400,000 . . .for an assessment of a Department that has been recognized by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) as a shining light of progressive community based policing?!?! Can't wait to see how this plays out!
Believe it or not, I disdain confrontation and would much prefer building consensus around issues. But I also don't back down in a fight and you will not have to guess or speculate about my opinions or motivation. When MPD has earned valid criticism(s), I will acknowledge the mistakes made and own the responsibility that comes with being the chief. I make mistakes and we have officers and civilians who make mistakes . . .and people are held accountable. Accountability comes in a variety of forums: policy changes, changes in training or remedial training, internal affairs, the PFC, civil law suits, the media, the Department of Justice, and public opinion. But when one writer opined that MPD has fewer founded complaints than a much larger organization notorious for misconduct, his "statistical" inference was that MPD must cover up for their people. How about this alternative theory? We have good people who do the right thing most of the time . . .which is why we have fewer founded complaints!
To the Common Council: You are being watched. And be on notice: this is a pre-emptive first strike from me to you. I am going to push back hard when MPD is constantly used as a political punching bag and you are nowhere to be found. I know you can't control what registered speakers say at Council meetings. No one expects you to. (And you have certainly not shown the will to hold speakers to established rules of decorum when there are those who launch into unrelated tirades and exceed their time limits; at least the Mayor tried to keep the message on track and when it was clear that he was getting no support, he walked out a few weeks ago)! On the same week that you used the annual submission of the MPD overtime report to open the door to MPD bashing, not one of you said or did anything to recognize our officers during local police week activities! No resolutions, no proclamations, not a word. I thought that I had your attention last year when your silence was deafening . . .apparently not.
My colleagues worry that my outspoken comments could lead to a lack of support for our budgetary needs. That sort of retaliation doesn't sit well with an informed constituency. If public safety is compromised because a Chief provides an opinion piece of his perspective, voters will see it for what it is . . . and I will remind them. At my age and at this stage of a sun setting career, I am not checking my polling numbers. I am doing my job and trying to live up to my credo to "GSD!' (Get "Stuff" Done)!