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Chief Koval's Blog

Message to our Community from Chief Koval

March 9, 2015 11:27 AM

Sir Robert Peel, arguably one of those who first articulated the necessity of having "police" in our midst, created a number of fundamental principles by which police should view their mission.  Peel lived and made these observations in the mid-1800's. Surprisingly, despite the passage of time, many of these tenets still resonate today, in terms of what we expect from our police. The principle which has always loomed largest for me is:  "The police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the POLICE ARE THE PUBLIC AND THE PUBLIC ARE THE POLICE (my emphasis added).

I begin this blog with this thought hanging heavy in my heart.  Our community is grieving and hurting over the loss of a young African American man, who life was ended far too soon.  His family, his friends, and our community are in mourning.  The police are part of this community---and we share this sense of loss.  I have stated as much to representatives of his family, in statements to the press, and to our work force. Reconciliation cannot begin without my stating "I am sorry," and I don't think I can say this enough.  I am sorry.  I hope that, with time, Tony's family and friends can search their hearts to render some measure of forgiveness.  Certainly, this will not take place soon given the circumstances.  It may take some time for this loop to close but I pray that it will, in fact, close.

There is a process that now takes place which involves two tiers of independent review of the events that occurred on Williamson Street last Friday night.  The State of Wisconsin's Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) has the exclusive authority to investigate all elements of the officer involved shooting--forensics, interviews, technology feeds, etc..  MPD, like the public, has questions that will only be answered when DCI's findings are set for release.  This investigation is then turned directly over to the second layer of review, the District Attorney's Office, who then makes a ruling on the question of whether there is criminal culpability on the part of my officer.  I would urge that everyone consider that the foundations of the much-maligned criminal justice system should still pay heed to the basic requirements of due process and fundamental fairness.  If it were any one of us accused of wrong doing, wouldn't we hope for as much?

No one joins my profession hoping to do harm to anyone; we put on "armor" (bullet resistant vests) each day with the understanding that today may be the day that I provide the ultimate act of selflessness; to lay down one's life for a complete stranger.  I cannot think of a more noble cause than to be a "guardian" to those who need us most--the vulnerable, the voiceless, the victims.  That is what I and so many like me have sworn to do and have made it our life's calling.  While I know that a sacred trust has been severely tested, I ask that people not define the legacy of service that this Department has provided to our public by this tragic incident.  Let us continue to demonstrate to you that our commitment transcends mere rhetoric. . .we show how much we care on a daily basis; one call at a time.  I realize that in order for us to achieve greater strides in community-based policing, the cornerstone for making that a reality starts with us earning your trust.  I want that to happen, my Department wants that to happen, desperately.  Remember, we live here, we work here, we go to church here, we're your neighbor(s), our kids go to school with your kids, and we all want the best of what life has to offer our families.  The police are the public and the public are the police. . .

Posted by: Chief Koval

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