Madison Police Chief Mike Koval speaks during a community discussion at the Allied Boys and Girls Club July 7. The police department's relationship with the Madison community is being examined as part of a top-to-bottom-review of practices, policies, training and culture by a citizens committee, soon with the help of an outside consultant to be selected Thursday from three finalists. 

After nearly a year of preparation, a citizens committee examining the policies and practices of the Madison Police Department will choose an outside expert Thursday to help it complete the review and recommend changes.

“(Thursday's) work is going to be critical,” said Luis Yudice, a former Madison police captain who serves as co-chairman of the MPD Policy & Procedure Review Ad Hoc Committee.

“These are companies that have done similar work with other agencies,” Yudice added. “They have the expertise to be able to dig deeply into the department, to conduct surveys and gather data. They have subject-matter experts to look at training policies and decide whether the training actually matches the practices on the streets.”

Committee members interviewed the three finalists vying for a city contract worth up to $400,000 at a meeting last week. They are New York City-based Exiger, OIR Group in Pasadena, California, and Hillard Heintze of Chicago.

Boasting expertise in risk management and compliance, law enforcement consulting and police agency oversight, the companies’ founders and investigators include former police officers, a civil rights lawyer and a former prosecutor.

Each company answered a request for proposals developed by the committee and city staff.

Meeting once or twice a month since last December, the committee has collected a variety of perspectives on the community’s relationship with its police department, with testimony from organizations and advocates for minority communities and for people who are mentally ill, as well as presentations on policies and procedures from East District Capt. Mary Schauf and Police Chief Mike Koval.

What the committee heard about the police department depended on who was talking, Yudice said.

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Testimony from the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, for example, was mostly favorable, Yudice said, with leaders praising the level of officer training and groups feeling positive about their relationship with police.

“But we also heard from minority communities that want to have a greater voice in how their neighborhoods are policed,” Yudice said. “And we heard (from other speakers) about a complexity of issues that are not owned solely by police: access to jobs, education and the whole issue of the economy. All of those things impact police-community relations because the police is the most visible government agency that interacts with our communities.”

The 14-member committee, created after the fatal police shooting of black teen Tony Robinson in March 2015, was charged with examining police policies to ensure they are fair, effective, reflect best practices nationally and are representative or welcoming of community diversity.

But committee members, most of whom work full-time day jobs, now must hand off what they’ve learned for more in-depth study by the chosen consultant team, said Yudice, who retired from the Police Department in 2004 and went to work as safety and security coordinator for the Madison School District two years later.

“(The consultant) will be able to request whatever data they need, from what is available, in order to develop a comprehensive picture of what’s going on in the Madison Police Department,” he said. “The vendor’s work will include extensive community involvement and opportunities for community members to give voice to the issues that are impacting our city ... what are the positives and what are the issues to work on.”

Final recommendations for possible changes to police department policies and procedures, training or culture could be presented by committee members to the City Council, Mayor Paul Soglin, Koval and other decision makers in late summer or fall of 2017, Yudice said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify the date of the hearing.

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