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Madison PFC announces plans for community engagement in police chief search

Madison PFC announces plans for community engagement in police chief search

Vic Wahl press conference

Acting Madison Police Chief Vic Wahl addresses media in a press conference Nov. 21. In a statement Tuesday, the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners said the process to select a new police chief could take between six and 12 months. 

Madison’s Board of Police and Fire Commissioners announced Tuesday plans to incorporate public input into a search for the city’s next chief of police. 

At the end of September, former chief Mike Koval abruptly announced his retirement. The PFC named Assistant Chief Vic Wahl as interim chief in his absence. 

In a statement Tuesday, the board said it is not “uncommon” for a chief search to take approximately six to 12 months. 

“The board is working diligently and carefully to ensure that it finds a candidate who meets the needs of our city,” the statement said. 

Since Koval’s retirement, the board has held several meetings to discuss the process and timeline of hiring a new chief and plan to schedule a working session each month to focus on the search. 

The board plans to schedule four listening sessions that will be held in different parts of the city in publicly accessible locations. Members of the public will be able to offer comments to the board at these meetings. 

Additionally, the PFC anticipates partnering with the Local Voices Network to obtain community input, especially from people who prefer to share their comments in s smaller group setting. The Local Voices Network is a project conducted in partnership between the MIT Media Lab and Cortico, a nonprofit organization that works to foster constructive public conversation in the community and media.  

CRAMER (copy)

Kathy Cramer with a digital "hearth" at The Capital Timess office.

LVN conversations are led by a facilitator and are recorded on a device called a digital hearth. Transcripts of the conversation are available online and become part of the public record. 

Though the details have yet to be worked out, LVN’s Colleen Butler said she hopes PFC commissioners would be trained as facilitators who could lead small group discussions. 

“It gives people that opportunity to share in their own words what has happened for them in their community as it relates to police and policing and safety,” Butler said. “It also allows us to share that perspective more broadly across the community.” 

The Local Voices Network project began in Madison at the beginning of 2019, aligning with the start of the mayoral race as part of an experiment to foster healthy local discourse and create deeper understandings between the public, journalists and elected officials.

Since the April 2 election, conversations have continued. These discussions surrounded topics of health care, the experiences of Muslims living in Madison and education

Butler, who previously worked as the race and justice director for YWCA Madison, said the search for Madison’s next chief of police was an “obvious fit” for community engagement. 

“What excited me about LVN is the power of listening and hearing people’s voices and getting people to be able to hear people from the community that they otherwise wouldn’t be in conversation with,” Butler said.  

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