The City of Madison Police Civilian Oversight Board announced Robert Copley as the Independent Police Monitor Oct. 28, according to the City of Madison website.
Copley’s appointment comes after the previously appointed Independent Police Monitor John Tate II — who would have began his position in December — resigned Oct. 17. Tate II would have been the first Independent Police Monitor in Madison’s history.
The position will enable Copley to oversee the Madison Police Department’s compliance with internal policies and required procedures and ensures accountability and equal attention to every community in the Madison area, according to the City of Madison.
Copley was previously Police Open Records Legal Advisor for MPD and served as a paralegal for the City of Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission, according to the City of Madison.
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Tate II’s appointment came with controversy, as he was asked by Gov. Tony Evers to resign from his previous position as chairperson for the Wisconsin Parole Commission after paroling a man who killed his wife.
University of Wisconsin law professor Keith Findley said the controversy surrounding Tate’s appointment may have impacted the public’s trust in the police, which has decreased in recent years.
“The Independent Police Monitor is intended and designed to give the civilian community a direct voice in policing matters in this community,” Findley said. “The extent to which the Independent Police Monitor is viewed as a trusted partner of the community results in a better performance in that role and a start to healing the rifts that have divided our community.”
In May, MPD worked with Public Values Research to conduct a review of Madison residents’ feelings toward the police. The surveys found trust in the police among people of color was about 20% lower than it was for white people.
Findley said recent police shootings, particularly of Black men, have created a crisis of trust which is still present today, though he believes the implementation of the Police Civilian Oversight Board and Independent Police Monitor are signs that Madison is trying to bridge the gap between police and marginalized communities.
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Copley’s appointment to the Independent Police Monitor position was widely accepted and begins a new chapter in the process of civilian oversight of the police, Findley said.
“[Copley] was roundly approved by this oversight board without a vocal criticism or rejection,” Findley said. “I think having him in place finally launches the Civilian Oversight Board onto the path of being effective and trusted by the community.”