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Madison mayor pushes for police chief decision within 90 days

Madison mayor pushes for police chief decision within 90 days

State Street press conference, May 31 (copy)

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, seen here with acting Chief of Police Vic Wahl at a press conference following violence and looting downtown, asked the Police and Fire Commission Wednesday to decide on the city's next permanent police chief in the next 90 days.

Ten months after former Madison Police Chief Mike Koval announced his retirement, the Police and Fire Commission have announced opportunities for the public to weigh in on the search process.

However, in a letter to the PFC Wednesday, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway expressed concern at how long the city has been without a permanent police chief and said she wants to have a decision from the commission in the next 90 days “so this community can move forward.”

“Particularly in this transformative historic time, our community needs a permanent, community-vetted police chief to take us into a new era of public safety design and implementation,” Rhodes-Conway said in the letter.

Also, the mayor said she hoped the PFC — which has authority to hire police and fire chiefs, fire them and hold disciplinary hearings when necessary — would release a calendar and list of resources needed to accomplish selecting a chief at its July 13 meeting at 5:30 p.m.

H. Nia Enemuoh-Trammell


Nia Enemuoh-Trammell, president of the PFC, said the panel plans to discuss the timeline with a search firm hired to find candidates for the post.

"We understand the need to move the process for hiring the next police chief forward. In my opinion, 90 days would be ambitious," Enemuoh-Trammell said Wednesday. "We remain committed to having a comprehensive search process, that allows for meaningful community input while respecting the need to set a realistic timeline for the search."

Jenna Rousseau, attorney for the PFC, said in an email Wednesday that an agenda item is included for that meeting for “further discussion of the Police Chief appointment process and timeline.”

Last December, the PFC said it is not “uncommon” for a chief search to take approximately six to 12 months. Since Koval’s abrupt retirement, Vic Wahl has served as acting chief during a turbulent time of civil unrest and demonstrations over police brutality.

As part of the search process, the PFC chose to work with the Police Executive Research Forum as an outside search firm. The final contract was signed in early May, according to Rousseau.

The PFC had originally planned four public town hall meetings but the schedule was affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Rhodes-Conway acknowledged the challenges created because of the unprecedented public health crisis and said that city staff from multiple departments are available to conduct remote meetings, obtain public engagement, work on the consultant contract and perform the search.

“In short, you should have all the resources you need to conduct a robust and transparent process in short order,” Rhodes-Conway said.

[‘I feel outnumbered’: An interview with Mike Koval as he enters his sixth year as Madison's police chief]

Public input opportunities

At the upcoming July 13 meeting and on July 22 at noon, the PFC will hear public comment from community organizations with thoughts on the police chief search.

The meetings will be held virtually, registered organizations will have up to 20 minutes to speak and time slots will be designated on a first-come, first-serve basis. Organizations can register online to participate.

“As we continue our work with this important function of the PFC, we are committed to listening to all residents in the City of Madison, including those who have the greatest challenges to providing feedback in the technological driven environment that we are now operating in,” the PFC said in a statement July 1.

Any resident can speak at the beginning of PFC meetings for three minutes during the public comment portion or email the PFC with feedback. 

Additionally, in the coming weeks, the PFC plans to launch a survey to gather more input. The PFC is also partnering with the Local Voices Network and looking into opportunities to gather public input through neighborhood associations, community centers, faith-based organizations and other community groups. 

More information on the search process can be found on the city's website

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