Following the Minneapolis City Council’s announcement of their intent to dismantle the city’s police force on Sunday, the Madison Common Council and Madison police officers discussed what the next step for police reform may be for the community.
The death of George Floyd, who was killed by four Minneapolis police officers, led to protests across the nation. In response to the outcry for police reform during these protests, members of the Minneapolis City Council announced on Twitter that they had a veto-proof majority in favor of disbanding the city’s current police force and replacing it with community-led public safety initiatives, according to the New York Times.
Despite this majority, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced at a protest that while he was working with the community and police chief to address systemic racism in the police system, he is not in favor of dismantling the police department, according to CBS Minnesota.
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Madison Common Council District 8 Alder Max Prestigiacomo said he strongly favors taking a similar approach as Minneapolis and dismantling the Madison Police Department. Prestigiacomo said a main argument against the disbandment of police is there will be no one to call during public safety emergencies.
“People are asking, ‘how do we stop crime?’ when I see crime as a symptom of broader systemic issues at play,” Prestigiacomo said. “If you’re looking at the holistic picture here … police are a band-aid to reasons people’s basic needs aren’t being met, and we need to start talking about the root causes.”
Prestigiacomo said by taking the money that would be going to the police force and investing it into health care, affordable housing, education and other basic needs, crime will decrease. Creating a “public-safety vacuum,” Prestigiacomo said, is not the goal of abolishing the police.
But, there is still strong opposition to disbanding the police on the council, Prestigiacomo said. Additionally, where the council’s powers lay in regards to abolishing the police isn’t clear-cut.
“It’s really hard to define something until you get a lawsuit,” Prestigiacomo said. “The Police Environment Commission has the ability to hire and fire officers, and there’s some leeway on that and some not.”
The council does have the ability to appropriate and redistribute funding, Prestigicomo said. Additionally, if the Madison PD is dismantled, there are jurisdictions above the city level that may choose to take on the role of policing Madison, Prestigiacomo said.
Madison PD Chief Victor Wahl spoke about his initial reaction to Minneapolis’ announcement.
“Good policy is seldom created in the midst of a crisis,” Wahl said. “People feel urgency to act, which is appropriate, but I think without careful consideration it’s possible to make bad decisions that are much more harmful for everybody.”
UWPD Director of Communications Marc Lovicott said while UWPD wouldn’t support the disbandment of their police force, they are open to discussion and on how they can improve.
UWPD released a resource with answers to questions from the community and an action plan for change based on community feedback.
“UWPD supports any measure that has positive impacts on the health and well-being of our community,” Lovicott said. “We’re always open to discussions and dialogues with our campus community to ensure UW-Madison is a healthy and safe place for everyone — especially people of color.”
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Prestigiacomo said he hopes to continue conversations with Madison PD and other members of the council on police reform, in order to hear others’ perspectives on the issue.
Additionally, Prestigiacomo said he is only one voice out of many on the council, so voicing his stance on the issue and setting up discussions on the matter is only one part of the process.
“The last thing I want to do is be cutting 400 people out of jobs in the middle of a global pandemic,” Prestigicomo said. “I recognize that side of it, but … we cannot ignore that we have a white supremacist system.”