After tense discussion, the Madison City Council almost unanimously approved a $400,000 resolution Tuesday to hire a consultant who will evaluate the practices, policies and procedures of the Madison Police Department.
The Police Policy and Procedure Review Ad Hoc Committee, a 14-member group city council created last spring, recommended an increase of $350,000 to the original $50,000 in funding for an analyst. Committee member Keith Findley said the group was originally assigned to conduct a review of MPD to help evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the department.
“This kind of review is an effort to figure out what is going on and ways to make the police function as well as possible and to improve the nature of police/community relationships,” Findley said.
The resolution passed 19-1, with Ald. Paul Skidmore, District 9 as the lone dissenter.
The ad hoc committee determined the best way to do a complete review of MPD was through the use of expert consultants. Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said the committee raised the original budget of $50,000 to $400,000 based on research from other studies done across the country. Verveer said the total cost of the resolution is less than 1 percent of the police department’s annual budget.
Controversy ignited from a blog post
The approval came shortly after MPD Chief Mike Koval wrote a strongly worded blog post Sunday, in opposition to the resolution.
In the post, Koval wrote he does not have a problem with a review of MPD, but believes the resolution is a waste of money.
“When not-for-profits and community leaders and activists are begging and bemoaning funding for engagement initiatives that are urgently needed … the city is marching forward demanding a total of $400,000 to get a report card on MPD,” Koval wrote in the blog post.
Koval also mentioned the council did nothing to recognize officers involved in local police activities to promote community relations. He directed comments toward the council, stating they need to “be on notice,” and letting them know they will be “watched” in the future.
A tense meeting
During the meeting, Koval got up to leave the tense atmosphere on two different occasions, only to be brought back into the discussion.
“I am going to push back hard when MPD is constantly used as a political punching bag and [city council] is nowhere to be found,” Koval wrote.
Many alders expressed concerns with the blog post during the meeting before the decision was made. Koval, however, stressed the police department never said they would oppose a study.
More than two dozen members of the public and more than 10 alders spoke at the meeting on the resolution.
Tony Robinson’s grandmother, Sharon Irwin was among the community members who spoke in support of the resolution.
“There’s going to be more families like mine who are crying everyday for a child who should not be dead,” Irwin said. “We can change this together. We can be a community that we were before. We need this. We need somebody outside.”
Madison community continues to seek change on one-year anniversary of Tony Robinson’s deathExactly one year after his death, the Madison community rallied together once again to remember Tony Robinson, the 19-year-old killed in Read…
Irwin said this study would give the opportunity for professionals to identify the problems, positive aspects and parts of the department that need to be changed.
Verveer said the chief had not previously expressed concerns with the ad hoc committee or the study until his blog post was released Sunday.
“I don’t think the study should be seen as some sort of attack on our police department or a criticism of the department,” Verveer said. “I have every reason to believe that whichever group of experts that study our department will find out that overall, we are blessed with a very excellent department.”
The ad hoc committee will make final recommendations to the mayor, city council, Police and Fire Commission and the madison chief of police by July 2017.