Chief Mike Koval

Madison’s City Council approved a set of short-term police policy recommendations on a near unanimous vote Tuesday. Madison Police Department Chief Mike Koval said he is not "averse" to accepting the report. 

The Madison City Council approved a set of police policies on a near unanimous vote Tuesday, which was met with support from members of the public in attendance at the meeting.

The President’s Work Group on Police and Community Relations, formed after an officer-involved shooting in July 2016, presented its final recommendations to the council. The short-term policy suggestions include broad areas of mental health, use of force and officer well being in addition to asking the Madison Police Department to modify existing guidelines and add to standard operating procedures.

“It’s about us as elected officials wanting to make sure the policies that are in place reflect what we are hearing from the constituents of this city that we were elected to represent,” said Ald. Shiva Bidar, District 5, the vice chair of the work group.

Only Ald. Paul Skidmore, District 9, voting against the report during the voice vote.

Police Chief Mike Koval responded to the final report Monday and took issue with language that requires the MPD to make specific policy changes, arguing that it “sets a dangerous precedent.” However, Koval said at the meeting he is not against accepting the report.

“It’s not that we're averse to the recommendations of the work group,” Koval said at the meeting. “I get concerned that sometimes I think some folks believe or have the perception they can literally take it to the incremental daily operations.”

Mayor Paul Soglin also addressed the difficulty of managing those in professional fields such as policing, where the work involved is dangerous and can evolve quickly. He said policymakers need to exercise caution when making decisions that will affect professionally trained officers.

“The more discretion an individual employee has on their own, the more different and challenging it is to manage from a distance,” Soglin said. “That is one of the reasons why police work and firefighting among others has been not just a challenge in Wisconsin, but in any city and any state."

Of the 13 recommendations, six were directed to the police department. These include addressing “emotionally disturbed” individuals in a standard operating procedure, incorporating the duty to intercede, de-escalate and preserve life into use of force and use of deadly force policies and developing a backup policy.

Koval said many of the work group’s recommendations are already included in the department’s various standard operating procedures but that he would incorporate new recommended language into current policies. The chief also said he would assign staff to develop a “reasonable” procedure on backup but could not commit to “impractical” restrictions.

Members of the public in attendance at the meeting supported the recommendations. Amelia Royko-Maurer, representing the Community Response Team, said the report is positive and encouraged the council to approve the compulsory language.

“As we’ve heard so many times that recommendations are not enforceable, they’re options, and I’m asking you to not allow these to be options,” Royko-Maurer said. “I’m asking you to be issuing them as lawful orders and break this chain of recommendations just being thrown away.”

Other recommendations include:

  • Directing the MPD to develop programming for officers to build “mental health and resilience” to manage the effects of trauma police officers are exposed to.
  • Directing the chief of police to provide quarterly written and verbal updates to the City Council.
  • Developing a policy governing the purchase and use of all city surveillance equipment, including the MPD. The policy would address data management, storage and policy violation consequences.
  • Exploring the MPD’s use of an early intervention system meant to monitor officers who are often the subject citizen complaints or demonstrate behavioral issues.
  • Using a “root cause analysis” method to determine factors contributing to a critical incident.
  • Reviewing the role of the Public Safety Review Committee to include a regular examination of police and community relations.

The MPD's policies and procedures are currently being reviewed separately by the OIR Group, chosen by an ad hoc committee, after the City Council recommended funding a $400,000 study. Madison has three city police oversight committees in addition to the work group.

Soglin said the work group’s report would be sent to the OIR Group to inform its analysis.

This article has been changed to remove the term "recommendations." The action taken by the City Council Tuesday was a change in policy, not a recommendation to change policy.

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