A recommendation from a consulting group to create an independent civilian review board to monitor Madison Police Department operations gained traction during a committee discussion Thursday.
The California-based OIR Group tasked with reviewing MPD policies, practices and procedures released a set of 146 recommendations at the end of December.
In what would be a major change in city policy, the consultants suggested creating a layer of civilian oversight in the form of an independent auditor that reports to a community review board. The oversight board would extend beyond the Police and Fire Commission’s statutory authorization, which is to hire, fire and discipline.
MPD Policy Procedure and Review Ad Hoc Committee member Christian Albouras said an independent auditor and oversight board could be a more effective mechanism for residents to file complaints and seek solutions.
“I feel like that’s one strong vehicle where people could begin to trust and not just have open lines of communication but open lines of resolution to wrongdoing,” Albouras said.
The additional layer of oversight could also attempt to bridge gaps of trust between the police department and communities of color, committee members said.
Committee member Jackie Hunt pushed back against the OIR Group’s conclusion that the police department is “unusually progressive" and emphasized that not all communities experience the MPD the same way.
“When I’m looking through the lens of privilege and those in power in Madison, things do look progressive. But from the lens that I see through as a person of color, it doesn’t seem like things are going progressively well in my favor or in the favor of the communities I live in or that my family and friends live in,” Hunt said.
In its response to the OIR report, the MPD did not oppose the recommendation to create an independent auditor but pointed out challenges such as cost and balancing credibility and independence. OIR principal Michael Gennaco previously estimated an auditor position could get started for about $200,000 per year.
Chief Mike Koval emphasized that the MPD would not be opposed to an auditor and civilian review board.
“We have to ultimately leave it to those who write the checks and craft the public policy in terms of is this an item you want to commit resources to in the long run,” Koval said.
The committee will begin discussing its recommendations, which will be sent on to the City Council, at its next meeting March 22.