Madison officials discussed necessary steps to achieve greater police accountability and transparency Thursday, which included diverse hiring and community insight in the police chief hiring process.

The OIR subcommittee of the Public Safety and Review Committee reviewed the OIR Ad Hoc Committee report on the Madison Police Department and Police Chief Vic Wahl’s comments on the report’s recommendations.

The report’s recommendations include greater accountability from the police through measures such as community members’ input in the selection process for the chief of police and performance evaluations at fixed intervals for the chief of police that prioritize socioeconomic diversity among those members.

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District 18 Ald. Charles Myadze said he hopes MPD will welcome some of the changes.

“I think that the public wants to see MPD showing accountability and transparency … for something to be feasible for the public to actually see accountability — I think that’s a that’s a big, big difference,” Myadze said.

Though MPD continues to collect and analyze data, Wahl wrote in the report that MPD has limited capacity for data collection and analysis, which impacts their capability for improvement. Myadze said it would be better if the public could have more data and updates on use of force by the police. 

Former Madison Ald. Brenda Konkel said it is important to have an annual accountability report presented by the MPD to the public. According to the report, the MPD and the City of Madison should discuss ways to analyze and regularly collect demographic data on arrests, summons and use of force.

According to the report, MPD should commit to a Racial Disparity Impact and provide incentives for participation and
continued organizational support for the committee’s initiatives.

Wahl wrote that committee has been rebranded as the “Equity Team” to be consistent with City of Madison’s efforts and initiatives. The team makes use of Madison’s equitable hiring tool and reviews position descriptions before they are posted.

District 12 Ald. Mary Anglism said she was concerned about the wording of Wahl’s response.

“When I hear the words ‘racial disparity impact committee’ and then see that it’s only doing hiring and professional descriptions, I feel like that leaves out a lot,” Anglism said.

In 2016, MPD launched a Community Outreach and Resource Education team to address barriers between MPD and youth and MPD and BIPOC communities.

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To further expand on initiatives like CORE, the report recommended MPD add a volunteer, incentivized and paid continuous leadership-competency component called a learning community whose members should represent diverse community groups.

“Potential cuts to MPD’s 2021 budget could result in the elimination of CORE, the unit that coordinates restorative justice initiatives for MPD,” Wahl wrote in the report. “This would have a significant impact on the department’s capacity to expand these efforts and will jeopardize existing restorative justice programs.”

The learning community, however, in the report was listed as “low” priority. District 2 Ald. Patrick Heck said this might be due to funding issues, but added something shouldn’t be low priority just because it is under-funded.

Members discussed a disconnect what MPD is doing and what people think it is doing.

The report encourages MPD to devise ways to receive feedback from the public, which Wahl said MPD already does through surveys. Mitnick said the committee needs more information about the accessibility of the survey and demographics of the respondents, which could skew the data obtained through the surveys.

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In addition to ensuring all data contains rigorous definitions and descriptions of methodologies, the report said MPD should release “accurate” data to local officials and the public.

“I think this is really a slam. If we were to take it at face
value, they say, ‘don’t do the misleading stuff anymore,'” Anglim said. “That’s pretty much either a very serious accusation or it’s just a careless slam at the police.”