East Towne Mall Arrest
Use of force reviews completed, records released
The Dane County Sheriff’s review is now complete and has concluded that, “based on the totality of the circumstances confronting each officer at the time force was used, the actions of [the officers] were objectively reasonable and consistent with MPD policy as well as training provided by the State of Wisconsin.” While there was no formal complaint or complainant, following the arrest that took place earlier this summer at East Towne Mall, given that the community response to the video footage that was captured by a social media excerpt understandably evoked emotional reactions and concerns as to the use of force that was employed, I exercised my Chief’s prerogative and initiated a series of steps that I hoped would advance the interests of both transparency and accountability by having the incident reviewed by an outside agency. MPD’s internal administrative review concurred with these findings, and a review by the District Attorney’s Office further advised that there was no criminal culpability on the part of the officers in effecting the arrest. These findings do not mean that we are not committed to working with the community to explore ways to do better.
No matter your perspective on the arrest that took place earlier this summer at East Towne Mall, we can all agree that the widely seen visual images from this incident have undoubtedly erected yet another trust barrier between the police and some of the citizenry that we are privileged and honored to serve. And since we in the Madison Police Department hold as our mission the provision of high quality police services that are accessible to all members of the community, we certainly do not want officers to interact with the public in ways that make people leery of our motto to "protect and serve." As it is my sincere hope to continue our efforts at engagement and collaborative problem solving to enhance quality of life standards for all of Madison, I am disheartened that for some, this incident threatens to impede gains made toward our primary objective of creating partnerships built upon trust. There can be no minimizing, rationalizing, or discounting the realities of what has occurred. Having appeared before some constituency groups following the East Towne Mall event, I have heard---loud and clear---from many who have expressed outrage, disappointment, and sadness. As Chief, I do acknowledge this pain and I am sorry that this incident has been the source of so much hurt, anger, and fear for many in our community. Despite this, I still feel strongly that it is within our collective power(s) to move forward.
While the respective administrative reviews are now completed, this is not an “ending” where the outcome is a one-size-fits-all answer or where we close the books and move on without any further discussion. As with each call the MPD responds to, we look at this incident and everything we do through a lens of “systems improvement.” MPD remains committed to pursuing “best practices” in use of force applications. To that end, here is a sampling of what MPD has been doing over the past year to address concerns relative to use of force issues:
- Quality Control and Assurance
In 2015, we applied for (and consequently received) a COPS grant that would fund a supervisory "Use of Force Coordinator." This position begins in mid-September.
~Through this position, we add another dimension to our "quality and control assurance" methods. Not only is recordable force reviewed by supervisory staff in the field, these reports will have another level of scrutiny from the use of force coordinator.
~This position will conduct research and development functions and advise management of trending "best practices”.
~The Use of Force Coordinator will assist in complementing and leading training throughout the Department and will also be tasked in conducting training for community outreach and engagement purposes.
~This position will compile statistics and audit all use-of-force reports and note where additional training and/or remediation is appropriate.
~This position will act as a subject matter expert for the Department and sit as MPD's representative on the State's advisory board for Defense and Arrest Tactics (DAAT).
- < >Tracking “Best Practices"
~We have sent training staff to national summits and yearly updates on use of force (and will continue to do so). We want to maintain a "macro" perspective on what initiatives are taking place throughout the country.
~In the first quarter of 2016, our Management Team met with our Training Team for multiple sessions comparing and contrasting our use-of-force policies and procedures with the findings produced by PERF (Police Executive Research Forum) as well as the Dane County Joint Task Force recommendations stemming from the United Way consortium of Law Enforcement and Leaders of Color. In going through this lengthy exercise, point by point, some adjustments were made; the vast majority of recommendations were already in place.
- Continued Training Initiatives
~We will continue our commitment to dedicating training time in diffusing, de-escalation, and disengagement. (This is by no means "new" to our Department's approach to use of force training; but it will continue to be a point of emphasis for pre-service, in-service, and specialized training).
~Additionally, our commitment to crisis intervention training (CIT) remains a hallmark of this Department and has been recognized as a national model by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). Officers will continue to receive this training throughout their entire career with MPD.
We have over 460 cops on this Department. The approach, methodologies, tactics and variables taken by one officer could be completely different (and within the scope of training responses) to another officer, particularly since each officer and set of facts is unique unto itself. In order for us to move forward, together, it is important we acknowledge the challenges of balancing “justifiability” (were the actions taken legally defensible) with the “desirability” (of those techniques used). In the East Towne Mall case, there is a "gap" between these two where reasonable people can disagree. Something we can all agree on is this: when "justifiability" and "desirability" are two sides of the same coin, the end result is better.
The public records release pertained to this incident can be found on our website at:
- Joel DeSpain, 266-4897, firstname.lastname@example.org