More than 30 public speakers spoke both in favor and opposition of the “We Support Our Madison Police” petition submitted to the Madison City Council Tuesday.
After the council approved $400,000 in June to inspect the practices and procedures of the Madison Police Department, a petition was created to support the police chief and those working for MPD. The petition demanded the city cancel the study of police policies and procedures, invest in combating crime and work closer with police. The petition received 1,774 supporters.
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Throughout the meeting, tensions between those in support of the petition and those against it remained fairly high.
While Paula Fitzsimmons, author of the petition, spoke, a large group of people in opposition to the petition interrupted her multiple times. Mayor Paul Soglin repeatedly hit the gavel throughout the night, trying to reel back the attention to the speaker.
“We will stay here all night if that’s what it takes,” Soglin said.
Some protesters held signs at the meeting until Soglin asked for them to put them down, threatening to suspend the hearing.
Before the meeting, many against the petition attended a teach-in, calling for police accountability outside of City Hall.
T. Banks of Freedom Inc., one of the groups organizing the petition protest, demanded community control over the police. T. Banks said with community control over the police, instances such as those involving Cierra Finkley, Genele Laird and Tony Robinson would not have happened.
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King Banks, a Freedom Inc. youth organizer, also said as a black teen she doesn’t feel like she is able to call the MPD.
“I am scared to call the people who are supposed to protect us and serve us because they don’t protect all of us,” King Banks said. “They protect who they want to.”
Several MPD officers spoke in support of the petition. Many of them mentioned their personal difficulties in recent times.
One of the officers, Rebecca Lindsey said she understands people might not like the police.
“We are not perfect, I understand that wholeheartedly, but we try every day to do something better than we did the day before,” Lindsey said.
The petition will be referred to the Mayor’s office, then the mayor will report back to the council.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said at the last City Council Organizational Committee meeting, there was a conversation about MPD’s relationship with the community. He said at the next meeting, he hopes the committee will accept a recommendation to create an additional formal group to continue discussing this important topic.
“This is a critical conversation and dialogue and discussion that needs to continue and will continue both inside of city hall and outside of city hall,” Verveer said.
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