UW-Madison’s student government on Tuesday declared it has “no confidence” in the university’s police force because the department helped Madison police during protests over the summer.
The Associated Students of Madison approved the largely symbolic measure on a vote of 9-5, with nine abstentions, illustrating the split among students over support for UW-Madison Police amid a national reckoning over police use of force.
Several members also took issue with how the council handled the vote. In particular, ASM voted against letting UW-Madison Police Chief Kristen Roman speak to the council during debate, with some members arguing she could have signed up to speak during the public comment period.
After national protests erupted in late May and early June after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, colleges across the country faced pressure from students to cut ties with their local police departments or change their campus’ own policing practices. Students at some institutions, including the University of Chicago and the University of California System, demanded their schools’ police forces be abolished entirely.
ASM chairman Matthew Mitnick said Tuesday’s vote does not go that far, though he noted there has been interest among some students in defunding or dismantling UW-Madison Police.
Mitnick and other ASM members organized the no-confidence vote to express students’ discomfort with UWPD’s involvement in policing protests off campus this summer, as well as call attention to the department’s “unwillingness” to make changes requested by students.
“The vote of no confidence indicates we’re uncomfortable with how they’ve been operating in the past and with their policies currently in place,” Mitnick said in an interview before the vote. “It shows those in charge that we are serious. We’ve heard from so many people about this, not just a few on council.”
But others on the council raised concerns about the speed with which the no-confidence vote came about and the strained relationship the council may have with UW-Madison Police in the future.
“I think this is a rash decision to take this vote tonight,” said Laura Downer, a graduate student representative who served as council chairwoman last school year and has worked closely with UW-Madison Police in the past. “If we want more communication with UWPD, why would we not let them speak? I’m dismayed by how this has happened so far.”
Roman said she was disappointed that she was not afforded the opportunity to fully engage with the council before the vote took place.
“A vote that cuts to the chase and bypasses any opportunity to engage — to share information, to listen, to learn, to clarify, to contextualize — undermines trust-building,” she said in a statement shortly after the vote passed.
Roman and other UW-Madison Police leaders met with Mitnick and some ASM members last week, something the department does every fall. But just 24 hours before the meeting, the department unexpectedly received a list of “demands” from them, UW-Madison Police spokesman Marc Lovicott said.
The hourlong meeting was “positive and productive,” he said, but nowhere near long enough to cover everything students wanted to discuss. Roman suggested a series of additional meetings to continue the conversation, which students agreed to, so taking a no-confidence vote less than a week later caught the department off-guard, Lovicott said.
“I’m disheartened,” Roman said in the statement. “On behalf of the UWPD I say with the utmost confidence that we can be trusted. That doesn’t mean we’re perfect. The UWPD is comprised of human beings, not badges and uniforms. Human beings who endeavor every day to serve our community with honor, with integrity, as guardians promoting safe and healthy communities, treating those we serve with empathy and respect. That truly is who we are.”
Involvement in protests
Madison police asked UW-Madison Police for help during protests that took place Downtown in late May and early June, Roman wrote last week in a blog post titled “Setting the record straight.”
“Because so many of our students live in the State Street area and because it is so close to campus, we believed we had both a vested interest and a responsibility to work to mitigate the destruction that was taking place in order to keep our community safe,” she wrote.
Roman said her officers used pepper spray on the night of May 30, but never used tear gas nor fired foam or rubber bullets. This continues the department’s practice of not using tear gas or less-lethal impact weapons for at least the past eight years, she said.
The department launched a “Racial Equity Initiative” in late June that examines UW-Madison Police’s policies and practices through a racial equity lens. A website outlines what accountability steps the department has already taken, such as wearing body cameras and requiring de-escalation training. The public can also scrutinize different types of data, including those related to use of force and police contact with students by race.
The new website also references #8CantWait, a national campaign to bring immediate changes to local law enforcement across the U.S. The project includes eight benchmarks that UW-Madison Police said it has met.
Mitnick said that claim is a bit misleading. Among the #8CantWait standards are a ban on chokeholds, strongholds and shooting at moving vehicles — all of which UW-Madison Police department policy currently allows in extremely limited circumstances.
The department’s practices and policies meet the “spirit” of the #8CantWait benchmarks, Lovicott said, while also acknowledging there are some narrow exceptions that must be considered. For example, he said, vehicles have been used as weapons in mass casualty events and an officer’s ability to disarm the driver would be critical in saving lives.
Chancellor Rebecca Blank also defended the department, saying it has progressive policing values.
“Our community has a wide range of public safety needs that need to be and are met by UWPD,” she said in a statement. “I recognize and support community efforts to protest long-standing injustices within law enforcement and the legal system, especially as it relates to the Black community. But I believe UWPD has been responsive to this moment.”
Pain and protest: Madison responds to the police killing of George Floyd (Summer 2020)
Protests erupted across the country, including Madison, to condemn the police-related death of a Minneapolis man May 25. Here's a look at local coverage so far.
Protests erupted across the country, including Wisconsin, to condemn the police-related death of a Minneapolis man, George Floyd, on May 25. H…
On June 23, protesters in Madison wrapped chains around “Forward,” the bronze statue of a woman located at the State Street corner of Capitol …
After demonstrators against racial injustice toppled the “Forward” and Hans Christian Heg statues last Tuesday at Capitol Square, community members have grappled with whether the art should be restored or replaced entirely.
“It’s kind of beautiful how you can show what you’re doing through a peaceful form like art,” Lowell fifth-grader Nelson Lashley said.
Madison officials are struggling to protect protesters' First Amendment rights while keeping citizens and property safe amid continuing protests Downtown.
Two groups for students of color say Abraham Lincoln's history as anti-Indigenous and anti-Black warrant replacing him with someone who "who stands for the justice of all people."
Man arrested for involvement in toppling of Civil War statue; activist charged with extortion.
Several State Street business owners said the disturbance at Coopers Tavern was not an isolated incident.
The statue of Col. Hans Christian Heg, torn down by protesters at the state Capitol on June 23, honors a Norwegian immigrant from Wisconsin wh…
Protesters knocked down two statues Tuesday evening, one that has come to represent women's rights and the other honoring an abolitionist.
"The police department is hesitant because they don't feel that the City Council and definitely the mayor has their backs," Ald. Paul Skidmore said.
Some drivers ran through small crowds of protesters Tuesday, causing injuries among those who were supporting Black Lives Matter.
The School Board is voting Monday to remove police from high schools before fall, and the Madison City Council is expected to introduce a similar resolution to end the contract.
The poll also found former Vice President Joe Biden widening his lead over President Donald Trump in the state and a declining concern among Wisconsinites over the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Madison School Board is creating a subcommittee to work toward removing police officers from schools, but opponents of police in schools are calling for more immediate action.
Protesters tore down statues of Forward and a Union Civil War colonel, assaulted a state senator and set a small fire in a city building Downtown on Tuesday night after the arrest of a Black activist seen causing a disturbance in a restaurant earlier in the day.
In the wake of COVID-19, riots and looting they're asking the street be turned into a temporary pedestrian mall, that subsidies be offered to new tenants filling vacant spaces; outdoor cafe and restaurant spaces be expanded and safety measures improved.
Madison mayor suggests person who hit 24-year-old Black woman might have committed a hate crime.
Natural light, customers and hope have begun to return on State Street. But uneasiness remains even as the plywood starts to come off the windows.
Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes unveiled Friday a package of bills that would ban the use of chokeholds by Wisconsin police officers, as well as limit other uses of force.
Communities with disproportionate numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths have other health struggles.
The Dane County Board on Thursday took a first step toward declaring racism a public health crisis. "First and foremost we have to recognize that there is an issue," Supervisor Shelia Stubbs said.
The announcement comes as protests nationwide, including in Madison, in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, continue into their third week.
The projectile launchers, which fire sponge rounds, were used against protesters during the first two days of demonstrations and unrest in Madison.
The Madison Police and Fire Commission's attorney said two proposed police oversight measures could conflict with the commission's authority.
Many of the measures were initiated after the shooting of Tony Robinson in 2015.
While much of the meeting was focused on police reform policy, the end turned into an emotional conversation about race and community healing.
Rhodes-Conway said in a statement Wednesday she "failed to center" a message of racial justice in a seemingly private video she sent to police expressing gratitude and sympathy.
In a statement Tuesday, Reyes said she will now support removing school resource officers from the high schools and plans to form a committee "to pursue a viable alternative to SROs in our buildings."
Day 10 of protests against police violence in Madison featured a grill out and block party, public defenders marching for black lives and "DEF…
Acting Madison Police Chief Vic Wahl said around 15 officers marched alongside protesters Sunday because they are also angry about George Floyd's death.
The crowd of around 100 attorneys took a knee outside of the Dane County Courthouse for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd's neck.
Madison Teachers Inc. is reversing its stance on school resource officers, but is only calling for their removal if 33 new support staff positions are added at the high schools.
The march was yet another gathering of its kind in Madison and across the nation protesting police brutality and white supremacy after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
Temporary paintings on plywood covering windows have turned the street into a pop-up gallery that is drawing crowds and making a statement in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing.
A survey of 100 of the 152 businesses on the street indicates that about 40 likely won't reopen.
As a "week of action" in Madison after the police custody death of George Floyd wraps up, three organizing groups vowed Saturday to keep pursuing the abolition, and not reform, of current policing structures.
By the thousands, citizens of Madison and surrounding communities have hit the streets every day — and often well into the night — for the las…
Day seven of protests against police violence in Madison was a celebration of Breonna Taylor's life. Organizers hosted a barbecue and party at James Madison Park.
The seventh day of protests in Madison honored the birthday of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 13. …
“These kids are the organizers,” said Ebony Anderson-Carter, 29. “This ain’t about me. It’s about them.”
The list is not comprehensive, as police continue to use video and other evidence to investigate crimes committed over the three nights.
"The Guard, I think, has done exactly what we asked them to do," Evers said.
On the fifth night of demonstrations in Downtown Madison, hundreds gathered at the top of State Street to celebrate and remember unarmed black people killed by police officers.
Also at the event, the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County said it would hire 75 "peace keepers" to de-escalate tension with protesters and police.
The bill would ensure each law enforcement agency in the state has a use of force policy that meets certain requirements.
City Council members condemned the death of George Floyd, refused to extend a state of emergency and curfew, and moved to secure more oversight on the Madison Police Department
For three nights, business on and around State Street in Downtown Madison have been sitting ducks for those who have taken advantage of the up…
Following peaceful daytime protests, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway urges protesters to "stay home," and not engage in looting and other destructive behaviors.
People began looting and damaging State Street stores and other property just before 1 a.m. Tuesday.
For a second day in a row, protesters shut down John Nolen Drive in Madison as part of a demonstration against the police killing of George Fl…
Police reported there were multiple break-ins and looting at stores outside the Downtown as well.
Anti-police protests in Madison continued for a third day, with a crowd marching Downtown and shutting down John Nolen Drive. Local organizers…
Police were trying to stop looters from shattering glass at the restaurant Teddywedgers, 101 State St., and Tobacco Mart, 103 State St.
“This vandalism, all this other stuff is ridiculous,” Murphy said. “It makes no sense to me.”
Madison Downtown business owners found themselves cleaning up again Monday after protesters for a second night broke windows, looted businesse…
The driver was able to drive away and has not been apprehended, but several people took photos that have been shared with police, the center said.
A second night of tear gas and broken windows gripped Madison on the Capitol Square.
Hundreds of people defied Madison's curfew Sunday night and clashed with police Downtown, bringing more vandalism and tear gas for a second ni…
For a second night in a row, protesters clashed with police in Downtown Madison following a peaceful protest against the death of George Floyd…
Volunteers swept broken glass, scrubbed graffiti and helped city workers right toppled planters along the pedestrian mall, where Madison police said about 75 businesses were looted or damaged during the riot, in which a police squad car was torched.
A cleanup effort was underway Sunday morning on State Street where Madison police say approximately 75 businesses were damaged, looted or both.
A crowd of more than 1,000 people gathered peacefully on the state Capitol grounds in Madison on Saturday to condemn the death of George Floyd…
Madisonians took stock of damage and cleaned up Sunday after a night of destruction and looting in Downtown Madison. A peaceful protest Saturd…
There were signs early Sunday that the violence was spreading into other parts of the city.
A peaceful demonstration in Downtown Madison on Saturday to condemn the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis turned destructive later on State…