In successive fashion, a group of Madison city council members and Mayor Paul Soglin weighed in Thursday on the arrest of 18-year-old Genele Laird.
A statement posted online right after 4 p.m. signed by 11 council members said they "cannot see past what seems like excessive aggression," about video that captured the arrest. The statement also acknowledged the incident has created a division among the community and said it's possible that complete wrong-doing cannot be assigned to the police officers or Laird.
"However, we cannot disregard the power imbalance between a young person and trained law enforcement officers," the statement said.
At the beginning of the statement, the members said they decided to share their thoughts after waiting for Soglin to publicly respond.
Fifteen minutes after the council statement was posted, Soglin issued a statement of his own.
He said he chose to not speak on specific details about the arrest, but shared his thoughts on underlying issues.
Soglin said the most important issue around the arrest, which happened outside of East Towne Mall on Tuesday afternoon, is reviewing the specific actions of Laird and the officers involved. But he said a community that cares should respect both sides' humanities and dignities regardless of the results of a review.
Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said Wednesday that an internal review of the arrest will be conducted.
The mayor said race will be a central point of discussion when moving forward. Laird is an African-American woman. He said his administration will continue discussing topics around race that can cause divisions, including "deep-seated institutional racism in this county, to the behaviors of each of us as individuals."
He made a point, though, that he is not directing criticism at the officers or witnesses involved in the arrest. The council members said they support and appreciate upstanding work by the Madison Police Department on a daily basis.
The council members said the arrest "affirms that a thorough, transparent and comprehensive review of the Madison Police Department is warranted and should be welcomed."
On June 7, the council approved $400,000 for a study to examine the policies, procedures and practices of MPD, which was met with criticism by Koval.
Soglin said the scope of the study will certainly look into the use of force, rules for officers and the public when an officer gives a command.
The council statement was signed by:
- Ald. Matt Phair, District 20
- Ald. Barbara Harrington-McKinney, District 1
- Ald. Ledell Zellers, District 2
- Ald. Amanda Hall, District 3
- Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, District 5
- Ald. Marsha Rummel, District 6
- Ald. Zach Wood, District 8
- Ald. Maurice Cheeks, District 10
- Ald. Sara Eskrich, District 13
- Ald. Denise DeMarb, District 16
- Ald. Rebecca Kemble, District 18