After a contentious summer filled with debate over the Madison Police Department’s policies and procedures, the Madison City Council created a subcommittee in attempt to improve police-community relations.

The council announced the creation of the subcommittee in early August. The city’s Organizational Committee approved it shortly after.

Breaking the tension

There has been an unprecedented interest in MPD over the last several months, City Council President Mike Verveer, District 4, said. He said he believes most of the interest has to due with the use of force, past officer-involved shootings and the “dramatic” arrest of a young woman at East Towne Mall in June. 

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In June, the council unanimously approved a $400,000 study into MPD’s practices, policies and procedures. Seven consultants have since expressed interest in conducting the study, Verveer said.

In addition to the new subcommittee and the $400,000 study there are two different groups: the Police Policy and Procedure Review Ad Hoc Committee and the Public Safety Review Committee, which are also evaluating MPD’s practices.

Verveer said he hopes the subcommittee will work toward strengthening the relationship between MPD and the community.

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Goals for the subcommittee

The group, officially named the Subcommittee on Police and Community Relations, will operate on four basic charges:

  1. Create a forum for residents and council members to discuss police-community relations.
  2. Look at policing policies and models used by other cities.
  3. Share information about MPD training, data, trends and policies.
  4. Develop short-term recommendations to bring to City Council.

Overall, the subcommittee will function as a venue to hear community feedback and to have an in-depth discussion on current MPD and their interactions with the community, Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, District 5, said in an email to The Badger Herald.

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The committee will schedule a public hearing session and ask MPD to present the alders with information and data on a number of policies and practices such as use of force, Bidar-Sielaff said. The members will then deliberate and develop a set of recommendations to address those issues, she added.

Community members will be also be allotted time to give a public testimony at each meeting.

Verveer met with MPD Chief Mike Koval in late July when he first came up with the idea. Verveer said Koval was “very accepting” of the idea and pledged MPD’s support. Capt. Jim Wheeler will serve as MPD’s liaison to the committee.

Verveer said he appointed Alds. Bidar-Sielaff, Denise DeMarb, District 16, Rebecca Kemble, District 18, Sheri Carter, District 14, and Marsha Rummel, District 6, to serve on the committee. Other council members are still allowed to attend and participate in meetings, he added.

Multiple evaluations of MPD could result in ‘redundancy’

Despite Koval’s support to participate in the initiative for a new subcommittee, Koval said in an email to The Badger Herald that he is concerned their objectives could result in “redundancy” and the possibility of the committee stepping too far beyond its original goals, because of the evaluations of MPD that already exist.

“There is already a Public Safety Review Committee as well as an ad hoc committee that has been tasked to review our policy, procedures and culture,” Koval said. “It is my hope that the issues and the time dedicated to this subcommittee will be clearly established at the outset so that MPD is not simultaneously reporting to three different government bodies.”

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While the $400,000 study is being conducted and the ad hoc committee continues to meet. Verveer said he hopes the new subcommittee will not duplicate their efforts, but rather complement the work.

The Subcommittee on Police and Community Relations will officially meet for the first time Sept. 14 at 7 p.m.