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District 16

Alder Jael Currie

Image of Alder Jael Currie,
Council Vice President

Alder Jael Currie,
Council Vice President

Contact Information

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 Currie’s Updates

My Thoughts on Reindahl Park and Body Worn Cameras

July 8, 2021 11:41 AM

Greetings friends and neighbors, 

I continue to be appreciative of being contacted to meet or chat, to provide assistance navigating city processes, sharing concerns and feedback, as well as inquiring what my stance is on particular issues. This week I've felt deeply compelled to share some thoughts about two important issues before the Council and our community - the Reindahl Park encampment and (police) body-worn cameras. 

Numerous communications were received throughout the weekend and leading up to Tuesday's Council meeting from residents expressing their views on Legislative File #66239 which was Item #22 on this week's Council agenda and called for enforcing ordinances at Reindahl. Furthermore, many more registered their position and/or to speak at Tuesday's Council meeting. Due to the nature that the resolution was introduced, myself and a majority of alders voted to not discuss or vote on the resolution, which also meant the Council would not be permitting registrants to make public comment on the item. Instead, the resolution will be discussed by the City-County Homeless Issues and Equal Opportunities Commissions before coming back to the Council for a vote. 

While the mere presence of Reindahl's encampment highlights several urgent needs, I don't believe any resolutions attempting to provide solutions should forego typical Council procedures. The city's committee structure is in place for a reason - so that members of the public, city staff, the mayor, and alders have due notice to discuss issues and come to the best solution(s) on how to resolve them. Pushing to adopt a resolution that would immediately and deeply impact the houseless community at Reindahl speaks volumes to whom the resolution is truly targeted to appease. Additionally, the resolution proposed to move individuals to an open field (in District 16) across from MFD Station 14 - nowhere close to resources and services and an area with extremely limited public transportation access and options. 

Shuffling people around causes cycles of trauma and creates further mistrust between the city and the houseless population. Furthermore, the encampment at Reindahl and others, no matter where they exist, point to an even more destitute need - safe and affordable housing. 

I am holding on to faith that humane and amenable solutions will come forth through the resolution's journey through city BCCs - it simply must get done. I implore us all to not lose sight that we still do not have a permanent location for the men's shelter - shelter is a temporary roof over one's head and in no way, permanent housing. 

Throughout my campaign for Council I did not shy away from the fact that I am not in support of implementing body worn cameras to be used by officers of Madison's Police Department - my position has not changed. The first, and in my opinion, easiest explanation is cost. As also discussed during Tuesday's Council meeting, the budget for implementing a pilot of BWCs in Madison is facing a $53,000 hole. Simply put, we don't even have the funds to pay for a pilot. In an upcoming budget we anticipate will be difficult and privy to cuts and reductions, it is not fiscally responsible to implement a "tool" that on it's own, does not rectify or correct the longstanding racism rooted in law enforcement and criminal justice systems and practices. 

Furthermore, the topic of whether or not to implement BWCs in Madison has been occurring for several years and has resulted in the formation of many review committees, task forces and feasibility studies etc. Time and time again communities and leaders of color have stood in opposition to implementing the cameras and have implored, the city in particular, to do the hard work necessary to work directly with communities to develop accountable policies and build trust. No amount of studies or recommendations will do this if communities impacted continue to be ignored when they've made their opposition clear. 

The primary public safety issue for communities of color (which we know are disparately affected by law enforcement and the criminal justice systems) is trust and as long as the community doesn't trust police, they won't trust police use of body cameras. BWCs do not increase public safety and have had no impact on preventing officer use of force. Again, if we want to address safety, we need to build trust. BWCs do not increase police accountability, they simply provide a reactive means to (ideally) ensure misconduct does not occur in the field. Furthermore, there are innumerable cases where BWCs were on and captured misconduct, yet law enforcement protected itself by delaying release of the footage (LaQuan McDonald, Anthony Brown Jr., etc) and/or officer misconduct did not address injustice and loss of life that occurred due to said misconduct (eg: Breona Taylor, Adam Toledo, etc). 

Tuesday's vote to accept the final report and model policy from the body-worn camera feasibility review committee was just that - an acceptance. Although an amendment introduced by Alder Bennet to not pursue the pilot program described in the report nor a full deployment of BWCs did not pass, it is important to note the Public Safety Review Committee as well as the Equal Opportunities Commission concluded to not recommend implementation. 

I personally, would like to see the money go towards other life sustaining and essential services, such as the implementation of the CARES program, as well as giving the Police Civilian Oversight Board, the impending Independent Police Monitor, and recently appointed police chief time to address policing issues first. 

The quote, "Rest if you must, but don't you quit. It's when things seem worst that you must not quit," has been providing motivation to push through difficult topics and tensions. I hope that whatever your stance is about these two important issues, they are rooted in humanity and collaborative decisions. It's going to take all of us to create an environment that is safe and inclusive for all. 

-Alder Currie

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