The Madison City Council approved a collection of civilian oversight measures for the Madison Police Department during a nine-hour long meeting Tuesday night.
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The Monitor and Oversight Board is designed as an outlet for public comment and a mechanism for police accountability, according to a statement from Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.
“The passage of a Police Monitor and the Civilian Oversight Board is a milestone for our city and our state,” Rhodes-Conway said in the statement. “I hope this long-awaited effort will result in the transparency the community demands, as well as contribute to greater community confidence and trust in our police department.”
The Monitor and Oversight Board will also make recommendations to the MPD police chief as well as the Police and Fire Commission, according to the statement. The new office will have the power to independently review MPD policies and conduct investigations when necessary. Members of the board will be able to subpoena MPD officers and compile an annual report on the police chief.
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City Council tasked nine different Madison organizations with nominating community members to serve on the civilian board. They also approved a budget resolution to provide funding for the endeavor — an estimated $482,000 for 2021, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
A few dozen community members joined the virtual meeting to make public comments on the items regarding the Monitor and Oversight Board. Niko Magallón was one civilian who spoke in favor of the proposition, noting the council’s responsibility in ending systemic racism in Madison.
“We have the choice here to evolve or repeat the same mistakes and watch in horror as more people, particularly Black people, are killed by key actors of state violence,” Magallón said. “That’s the Madison Police Department, and they do so with the continued complicity of Madison Common Council.”
According to Rhodes-Conway’s statement, the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement found there are currently 166 oversight bodies of police entities across the U.S. including many of America’s largest cities. Madison will join the ranks of these cities with the creation of the Monitor and Oversight Board.
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Rhodes-Conway said while civilian oversight measures are new to Madison, she is hopeful the Monitor and Oversight Board will provide a framework to gauge the city police force’s progress and reveal opportunities for improvement.
“Experts note that the most effective oversight bodies are the ones that establish themselves as independent, effective and fair,” Rhodes-Conway said. “Community groups now have an opportunity to put forward a strong set of candidates to serve as a foundation for a new era of transparency, cooperation and continuous improvement.”