Five months into his sixth year as chief of Madison’s police department, Mike Koval announced Sunday he is leaving the force.
Koval broke the news in a morning blog post, explaining that the date was fitting because it is celebrated in the Catholic tradition as the patron saint of police officers.
“For you see, I did my best to be a guardian to the community and a guardian to the "guardians" (cops),” Koval said.
Effective Monday, Assistant Chief Vic Wahl will be the interim chief of police until the Police and Fire Commission conducts a hiring process. Assistant Chief John Patterson and Assistant Chief Paige Valenta will serve alongside Wahl. Koval called the trio a “dream team.”
Koval was sworn in as chief on April 11, 2014. After being named to the post, Koval laid out a priority of changing the image of police from that of “warriors” to “guardians.”
He took on the role after about three decades with the department. Koval joined the MPD in 1983 and, aside from two years with the FBI, has spent his whole career with the department. Before he was promoted to chief, Koval was a personnel and training sergeant, recruiting and teaching new officers.
He often refers to the department as his second family.
“This is the city where I was raised, went to grade school through college (and parts of my law school studies), met my wife here, began our family here, and provided me with the opportunity to make a difference as a street cop for a department that was (and is) firmly committed to community policing,” Koval said in the post.
Koval thanked his family and community partners in the post while also encouraging the department to “stay strong.” He said is biggest fear leaving the MPD as chief is wondering who will “protect the guardians when they are hurting.”
Throughout his tenure, Koval has earned die-hard supporters and also sharp critics. His time as chief was far from calm. Over the past five years, Madison has seen four officer-involved shootings; high-profile, non-fatal uses of force by officers, immigration concerns and arguments with the City Council over funding for a police study.
Addressing the community, Koval said the department is trying to earn its trust and to work cooperatively.
“I am sorry if I said or did anything which caused you to question these motives or the authentic desires of MPD to be relational partners in moving forward,” Koval said. “Blame me for whatever missteps or disappointments you may have but please give this department and its dedicated employees the benefit of the doubt, and let them impress you with their selfless desire to better serve you!”
Koval said he released a video message to the department, expressing gratitude and also discussing the the department’s staffing challenge. He said he tried to educate City Council members, mayors and the media to focus on staffing.
“But I didn't get it done; I could not get the staffing levels we need to maintain our service levels,” Koval said.