As he was sworn in Wednesday, new Madison Police Department Chief Mike Koval said the revival of his old-fashioned style will be key to his success in his new role.

As Koval entered the room to a sound of bagpipes to be sworn in, he laughed about the large crowd of officers there to watch.

“I’m a little concerned about who is taking any calls for service,” he said. “It’s the perfect time for committing a crime.”

The big turnout was not surprising. Koval trained 74 percent of MPD’s existing workforce, former Interim Police Chief Randy Gaber said. That means 374 officers were trained under Koval’s supervision, and 339 of them are still MPD officers, he said.

Mayor Paul Soglin said the legacy David Couper and other past chiefs continue to make Madison special, and now it is Koval’s turn to lead the department.

“We continue to be an outstanding city, but not one without challenges. Our police chief comes to this position welcoming those challenges, looking forward to an opportunity to truly make Madison a better place for every single person,” Soglin said.

Koval called himself a man of strong principles and said the driving forces in his life are his faith, family and the MPD family. A University of Wisconsin alumnus, Koval met his wife at Camp Randall as a student.

Koval also said he is grateful the police commission took a chance on him and his “old-school mentality.” He was not picked for the position a decade ago, when former MPD Chief Noble Wray took over, but said he is humbled by the opportunity now.

“One of my jobs is to use my bully pulpit as chief to reclaim and make sure that the citizens of Madison understand fully that our officers are going to be delivering quality services that are accessible to everyone,” Koval said. “All of these encounters are going to be typified with dignity [and] respect and we’re going to be ever vigilant about constitutional rights and individual liberties.”

Koval attributed much of his success to his mother, calling himself the “product of a mama’s boy.” He said his parents’ choice to move from Ashland to Madison when he was young exposed him to a world of diversity that shaped who he is today.
Among his MPD family, Koval has deep histories with many people in the department.
“This is one of the most talented and gifted groups of people that I have ever encountered,” he said.

After Wray announced his retirement last summer, the process to find a new chief began. Originally there were 20 applicants, and the bid for the job eventually came down to Koval and Central District Captain Carl Gloede.

Koval has served in MPD for more than three decades after beginning in 1983, and cited Couper as the basis for his police “theology.”

Gaber said Koval’s work in the department has mostly been behind the scenes, dealing with training and other “less-publicized” jobs. Gaber also said he is confident in Koval’s abilities as he begins his new role.

“You have created a legacy for exceptional police work in our community for years to come,” Gaber said to Koval, before passing over the police chief badge.

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