In light of recent attention to racial disparity concerns, the Madison Police Department pledged to continue to focus on the issue through initiatives like neighborhood policing and training programs.
MPD Interim Chief Randy Gaber highlighted a variety of initiatives in a blog post. The department started the Unconscious Bias Group in 2010 and developed a training called “Judgment Under the Radar,” which is intended to bring awareness to any sensitivity certain groups within the department or in the community may have.
The program primarily focuses on racial disparity in the criminal justice system, policing a multifaceted and diverse community and pending changes in immigration legislation, the post said. The training serves to bring attention to how biases can be an impediment to policing, the post said.
Those involved in the Judgment Under the Radar training in the past several years have included law enforcement officers in the department as well as from other local law enforcement agencies, the post said. There are several Judgment Under the Radar trainings scheduled for 2014.
The post also outlined another initiative the police department has implemented to address the issue of racial disparity, known as Neighborhood Policing. Through this initiative, certain communities throughout Madison are assigned an officer.
Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said this initiative in particular serves the Madison community well by establishing close relationships between the police and residents.
“The MPD absolutely recognizes the importance of understanding racial disparities in our community not only within the MPD department but also how it impacts Madison residents’ perceptions with the police,” Resnick said.
Resnick said in communities that are known to have issues with policing, it helps to have an established relationship where otherwise residents might have apprehension in contacting the police.
Particularly in communities of color, Resnick said utilizing resources like neighborhood police officers is beneficial as it allows community members to have an officer available to talk to and establish a connection with.
The role of neighborhood police officers is to patrol areas regularly as a preventative policing strategy, Resnick said.
Erica Nelson, who worked on the Race to Equity report from the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, said the MPD’s statement of commitment to continuing its efforts in reducing racial disparity in Madison is a step in the right direction.
“It is a big part of the puzzle, we have high racial disparities in the criminal justice system involving high arrest rates, and high juvenile arrest rates,” Nelson said. “The more that the police force understands that and can build relationships in the community to mitigate people being arrested and mitigate crime I think that’s great.”
In terms of reducing racial disparities between African-Americans and whites in the community, Nelson said everybody has a role to play and can help each other in working toward reducing racial disparity.
It is important that MPD has a commitment to this issue, and while MPD cannot solve the problem of racial disparity in Madison singlehandedly, other people have and will follow suit in addressing racial disparity in Madison, Nelson said.