At Tuesday evening's Madison City Council meeting, Young, Gifted and Black Coalition leader Brandi Grayson spoke directly to Police Chief Mike Koval about the death of Tony Robinson: “We know the facts, and when they come out, this city will erupt. This city will f-ing erupt. And the blood and whatever takes place after that will be on your hands and the mayor’s hands.”
Her testimony was one in a series of speeches about the death of Robinson, a 19-year-old black man who was shot and killed by police officer Matt Kenny on March 6. Koval sat through the public comment period that City Council had added to its Tuesday agenda, saying later he has no problem with people questioning his department, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
But on Wednesday morning, he sent an email to all alders with a different tone.
“Last night, I sat patiently listening to people accusing MPD of everything from being sanctioned murderers to racists. Given the nature of the proceedings, I was left with no recourse to respond to any of these diatribes, falsehoods and shock value missives,” Koval wrote.
He wrote that people can attack him all they want, but he has a duty to speak up when the people who work for him “have to contend with unchecked, unilateral attacks on them and the legacy of the MPD.”
“I failed them by not being able to go to bat for them under the constraints of the hearing protocols last night,” Koval wrote. “In short, your collective silence is DEAFENING and that is why I chose to write to you today. Don’t think that I haven’t noticed or that my employees haven’t noticed—we have!”
The public testimony Tuesday evening included claims that Kenny is a murderer and the assumption that he’s already guilty, even though the state’s Department of Criminal Investigation is still examining the case and has not released additional facts. With the guilt already assumed, however, some also said they believe there will be no indictment and that Kenny will face no charges.
“What will happen after this non-indictment will mimic Ferguson, and that, my dear, will be on your hands,” Grayson said, again speaking directly to Koval. “And you can no longer scream that we are not Ferguson, 'cause we are Ferguson. We are the worst city in the nation for black people and every one of you should be ashamed of yourself.”
Koval chastised council members for “remaining silent” while the police department “is sullied with drive-by disrespect.” He said the text messages, whispered support in hallways or phone calls won’t cut it anymore — the council needs to be more public and more intentional about support for the police department and its employees.
The one piece of the public testimony Koval viewed as substantive was the idea of opening the police department's policies and procedures manual for independent review.
"Have at it," he wrote, adding that he'd be happy to have the Public Safety Review Committee or another entity review the department's policies as well.
In closing, however, he critiqued the council for the lack of order to the hearing, including numerous people speaking beyond their time limits and Grayson yelling out comments as she left or sat listening to testimony.
“Police and citizens alike are expected to conform to rules,” Koval wrote. “The decorum that I witnessed last night where certain people were allowed to trammel those rules with a gentle admonishment to respect the rights and minutes of others was laughable. My suggestion is that the rules of order should apply to everyone or those in non-compliance should incur the consequences. The hearing became a kangaroo court and while you don’t care what civics looks like on cable television, I do.”