City of
Madison

District 12

Alder Syed Abbas

Image of Alder Syed Abbas,
Council President

Alder Syed Abbas,
Council President

Contact Information

Home Address:

P.O. Box 7671
Madison , WI 53707

Council Office

Common Council Office:
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Room 417
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
WI Relay Service

Alder Abbas’ Blog

Black Lives Matter

June 21, 2020 9:46 PM

My Statement on Black Lives Matter

6/16/2020

First, I want to say, I have seen the horrendous and disturbing videos and reports of police brutality. It makes me sick. Change is needed, and I support that change. I stand with our community.

Now is the time to turn the tables and change the system, but not only just police. We need to change the whole legal system and have a broader discussion around equity and race. It's going to take a lot of listening, working together, pivoting, planning, implementing and taking action as a community, but now is the time.

...................... 

Over the last two weeks I have received over 2200 emails from constituents asking alders about defunding and dismantling the police and creating an Oversight Board and Independent Monitor for the Madison Police Department (MPD).

I sponsored the Oversight Board Second Alternate (60764) (UPDATE: It was passed at the Council Meeting on Tuesday 6/16) and also sponsored the Police Auditor position with the hopes that these will be baby steps in creating and building trust and relationships between the MPD and the community at large.

I am committed to racial justice and I am dedicated to making various policy directions to address those issues facing our community.


I would like to share my perspective. Please know this comes from my wholehearted commitment to serve the community with honesty and transparency. Police brutality has got to stop, and we need to have a plan in place for how to move forward.

As a responsible policy maker, I have to think from all angles and make the decisions which benefit our community (with the help of the public, of course), especially our disconnected communities. As policy makers there are so many systems and processes involved which will take time, but I also understand we do not have the privilege of time, when black lives are in immediate danger and people are getting killed.

These are the questions we need to address:

First, with the support of the Council staff, I have been researching and getting legal input around defunding the police. Approximately 94% of the police budget goes to around 500 plus or minus MPD officials' paychecks and 6 % goes to operational costs. I do not know currently if the Council has the power to fire MPD or furlough them. However, the Council does have the power to not hire more police and use that money on social justice programs.


Second, the Mayor's office and the Council, with the input of the public, need to decide if we do not spend money on public safety then how will we utilize the money not spent and which services would be provided?

If the City is willing to take the lead and take initiative on providing services or using mental health / social workers as first responders to 911-like calls, where does the immediate funding come from? How much will it cost? What mechanism would we put in place to operate that scale of service and how long will it take to create an infrastructure like 911 where people call a different number to address their problems or complaints?


Third, let's say we defund the police or reduce their funding, what replaces them and how do we address the concerns of people and businesses who do not feel safe or as an example if someone decides to hire their own private security company? Currently, we as a community have oversight on MPD and we are planning to bring more oversight through a police auditor and ad hoc overview board / committee, but if a private company fills that gap, we will not have oversight over private security firms.  

Fourth, I want to provide you with some examples from District 12, my district. I realize not all situations can be solved in the same way; however, this example gives me hope that collaboratively we can make advancements for the greater good. In mid-July 2019, there were daily escalations and disturbances with youth – many 911 calls -- at the McDonald's on Dryden Drive. I was at the meeting where the North District Police Captain, Director of Northside Planning Council (NPC) and some service providers discussed in detail exploring ways the NPC could bring service providers to the scene to help diffuse the growing conflicts there. With the collaboration of MPD and NPC, Haywood Simmons from a local community group who mentors youth, addressed that escalation by bringing adult staff there every day with jump ropes, boxing gloves, drums, and food. MPD also helped Haywood to get some small funding through the Madison Police Foundation and Haywood and his team did a tremendous job of calming the situation; the daily police calls stopped. It was a great collaboration between Alder, MPD, NPC and service providers to find a peaceful resolution to the problem, for all stakeholders, including the youth. It was a successful model.

My understanding is the MPD was very happy to have the community group's involvement and have this community-related issue solved with community solutions. Currently, we as a city do not have any mechanism in place where people can go to community-oriented places or call community-driven organizations to get that help at their fingertips in one phone number or at one place. People's first response is to call 911. I think all parties including the MPD would appreciate it if we create mental health units and social services with trained, experienced mental health professionals, and use them to de-escalate situations with non-violence calls.

I do not have answers to all the questions. However, before we reduce services from the City Department, realistically, the first step should be to look into what social services the City can provide, how much it costs, and what the timeline looks like so we can move forward with a plan. I believe ultimately, after reforms are made, policing through partnership with public health could be a good start. I do believe in you and in our Council, that together we can think creatively and compassionately, and together we can move a powerful, forward thinking plan into place for a stronger, safer community for all our people. Let us be an example for the world.




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