There has been much said about the quality of police in recent months, raising important questions: Has the department or its officers moved away from their commitment to community? Has the training for the officers of the Madison Police Department (MPD) changed? I know these questions are important to you, as they tell you who will show up at your door when you call for our services. I will be completing my 29th year of service this year. I am presently a commander, but I spent the bulk of my career involved in police training. This perspective leaves me well qualified to respond to these questions. In short: the challenges faced by our officers have increased; the training has changed for the better; and the commitment to community service is as strong, if not stronger, than ever. Let me explain.
In 1984, when I joined this department, Madison was a small city, but the police calls were more typical of small towns. Calls involving guns and other weapons were very rare; gang and drug violence was almost non-existent, and most criminal investigations involved victims and suspects who knew one another. As an officer, the reports we had to complete were short, mostly handwritten, and the expectations with respect to quality and richness of detail were not as high as they are today. Officers enjoyed a great deal of autonomy and discretion as we determined how best to serve. We were still very busy, but the truly violent, stressful and life threatening incidents were few and far between.
Today, Madison has big-city problems. Gangs, drugs and weapons are a daily reality. Police calls involving the weapons are likewise a daily event. Crime directed at innocent victims is more typical of the crimes are common. Officers see death from drugs regularly, find illegal guns and weapons during a great many investigations, and officers can expect to be involved in incidents involving death and human suffering many times a year. At the same time, performance and reporting expectations for police have increased dramatically: Officers are responsible for completing reports cover incidents in great detail, conducting thorough investigations that include recovery of evidence that did not even exist years ago. Squad cars are equipment with cameras and microphones to capture every action taken. All of this increased oversight occurring against a national backdrop where violent assaults and killing of police officers are on the increasing at alarming rates, and mass shooting incidents are reality every officer must be prepared to face.
The day-to-day reality faced by our officers is highly stressful, and yet, I watch in admiration as our officers retain the community service orientation that typified the MPD of old. Officers from other departments used to call us, "social worker cops," although not all our officers embraced community policing in those days. I suspect that label exists today, and I know a far greater proportion of our officers embrace the values orientation implicit in community policing.
The department has accomplished this through purposeful commitment to recruiting, screening for and hiring people with strong values of service and professionalism. The training for our officers receive has kept pace with the challenges they must face. The training they receive continually reinforces the MPD Core Values of Human Dignity, Service, Community Partnership, Integrity, Continuous Improvement and Diversity. They are as well trained in crisis intervention, professional communications and community policing as any time in my career. At the same time, they are trained to deal with violence and threat that is no longer merely speculative.
Our officers are prepared to be deeply engaged human servants on most days and warriors when the need arises. It takes a very special person to be able to serve both roles. We have many very special people, and I am very, very proud of our officers. I know from the feedback I receive that many of your share that appreciation.
You have excellent police officers serving you on the Northside, but we'd like to be even better. We are deeply committed to continually improving ourselves and our services. Contact me anytime if you have thoughts on how we can better serve.
Take care and Be Safe....