After deliberating in closed session Monday, Madison’s Police and Fire Commission officially named Assistant Chief Vic Wahl to serve as head of the police department in the wake of Chief Mike Koval’s sudden retirement.
Wahl had been acting in Koval’s place as the highest ranking assistant chief, but the PFC’s decision makes his role official.
“Certainly, it’s important for me to instill a sense of consistency and continuity, both internally and to the community,” Wahl said. “Based on my experience, I feel very comfortable running the operations of the department.”
Apart from navigating the transition period, Wahl said his priorities include implementing recommendations from the OIR Group — a consulting group that led a comprehensive review of the police department. These include instituting formal performance evaluations and a critical incident review process.
“You can’t just tread water,” Wahl said. “If there’s things to improve and things to change and things that are areas where we need to keep the ball moving forward, I certainly intend to do that.”
Wahl joined the MPD in 1991. He’s worked as a patrol officer, captain of the West District and was promoted to assistant chief three years ago.
During his time at the MPD, he has led analyses of staffing, helped bring less lethal technologies to the department and led the MPD’s response to the OIR Group.
Wahl made it clear he does not want to apply for the permanent chief of police position. In Madison, police chiefs are required to live within city boundaries. Wahl does not and would prefer not to move.
The two other assistant chiefs, John Patterson and Paige Valenta, have indicated they are not interested in the position either, according to the PFC.
Commission member Trent Jackson attempted to convince Wahl otherwise, commenting on the assistant chief's “outstanding” file.
“I’m trying to leave you some wiggle room because that means, unless someone rises through the ranks, the next police chief of the Madison Police Department will probably be from somewhere else,” Jackson said.
Koval was hired as a training sergeant.
Koval’s retirement came as a surprise to many when he announced his plans in a blog post Sept. 29. Wahl said the feedback he has received reflects that officers “have weathered the storm and are feeling pretty good.”
“Certainly there’s going to be uncertainty as this process unfolds for the selection of permanent chief,” Wahl said.