Madison Police Department officials clarified their stance on the Mifflin Street Block Party in a meeting hosted Friday, saying although the department’s goals of ensuring safety have not changed, this year officers will not issue warnings to students.
Safety concerns were the primary motive behind MPD’s approach to this year’s Mifflin Street Block Party, according to MPD officer Grant Humerickhouse. Safety is, and always has been, the first priority of the department, he said. There will be no exception to the weekend of May 4, he said.
“The philosophy hasn’t changed with that,” Humerickhouse said. “The only thing that has changed is the idea that there are no warnings.”
The policies set in place are standards expected by students and citizens on a daily basis, according to Humerickhouse. The standards are to be safe, respect the neighborhoods in Madison, communicate and be on common ground with the officers, he said.
The policies that are in place for that weekend are going to have the same outcome as any other day of the year, Humerickhouse said.
To reduce the block party atmosphere, Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said MPD will continue their practice of keeping the street open to traffic. He added this is part of the MPD plan to promote the idea that May 4 will be like every other weekend in Madison, and the police department will respond accordingly.
Humerickhouse added this change in approach is not a reaction to last year’s Mifflin event, but what has happened at Mifflin over the course of many years. When alcohol is present, the risk of stabbings, batteries and sexual assaults happening increases, he said.
“The city is responding to the historical perspective, not just last year, because the policies have not changed from last year, they’re still the same,” Humerickhouse said. “It’s the city responding to the historic change over time, that this has become an alcohol-centered event. We need to ensure that there is safety.”
Safety is going to be enforced not only on Mifflin Street, but in surrounding neighborhoods where the block party could spread, according to Resnick.
During Mifflin weekend last year, increased police presence on Mifflin Street caused parties to spring up in other neighborhoods in the campus area, Humerickhouse said. MPD received calls from concerned residents of the Spring Street, Langdon and Breese Terrace neighborhoods, he said. MPD will be covering assigned neighborhoods Mifflin weekend based on concerns from citizens in surrounding communities.
“We heard those concerns and we are reacting to them because [they are] valid concerns,” Humerickhouse said.
Humerickhouse also said if those areas are not a safety concern, officers can move to where response is needed.
At first, students were upset over the letter released by MPD, which called for an end to Mifflin, Resnick said. However, students are still free to make their own decisions about what to do over the weekend of May 4 and MPD only wants to make the weekend safer, he said.
“I do think some of the outrage [from students] is a bit misguided,” Resnick said.
Humerickhouse said MPD would not enforce these policies if they did not believe it would create an environment of safety and engagement with citizens.