A year and a half ago, the Madison City Council authorized a $400,000 study of the Madison Police Department at a meeting rife with tension fueled by long-standing anger over officer-involved shootings and newer concerns over the police chief’s actions at public meetings.
The MPD Policy Procedure & Review Ad Hoc Committee, created following the officer-involved shooting and death of Tony Robinson, selected the California-based OIR Group last October to lead the year-long study.
The consultants’ full report, released Thursday, found that although the department can be “unusually progressive, effective, and ‘ahead of the curve'’’ in some areas, the past few years have been difficult for the Madison community and police department.
“The impacted members of Madison’s community and its police leadership could use a 'reset' so that past disagreements and contretemps can stop getting in the way of a path forward,” the consultants said in the report. “Our hope is that this Report will serve as a significant contribution to that process.”
Consultants will give an overview of the final recommendations at an ad hoc committee meeting Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the Urban League of Greater Madison, 2222 S. Park St. The City Council and ad hoc committee will meet jointly with OIR consultants Jan. 11.
City Council President Marsha Rummel is also working to organize a town hall meeting in January to give the public an opportunity to ask questions and give feedback.
“Now we are on the eve of the next turning point in our community conversation about policing and about what community oversight of the police should look like,” Rummel said. “We still have hard work ahead of us but I am hopeful this report will help us move forward together.”
The 146 specific recommendations included in the report span issues of racial equity, restorative justice, community engagement, mental health resources, criminal investigations and risk management initiatives. Broad categories of the report include community relations and engagement; response to critical incidents; use of force; internal culture and protocols; accountability; and civilian oversight.
The consultants recommend that the city appoint an independent auditor to oversee the MPD and that the department strengthen its internal investigation of officer-involved shootings. Additionally, the consultants recommend the city create a policy on body cameras with input from the community prior to committing to purchase any equipment.
“Because the development of a body-worn camera policy is critical to both the effectiveness and public acceptance of a new program, City leaders and the community at large should be equal partners with MPD in devising the policy,” the report reads.
During the OIR Group’s initial recommendation presentation, consultants said the police department was not as successful at engaging the community on controversial issues.
On issues of racism and bias, consultants found that department members “chafe” at any allegations and react to “situations they did not create.”
“Apart from their intentions, though, is the reality of their work and its disparate impact on particular groups,” consultants said. “The arrest numbers themselves and concepts such as implicit bias present challenges they must continue to grapple with. And they must also do a better job of understanding, acknowledging, and working through the trust and perception issues that are problematic in parts of the City.”
Madison Police Department Chief Mike Koval said in a blog post Thursday that the department will respond by the end of January to the report’s recommendations.
“At the end of the day, it is my hope there are elements brought forward in the OIR report that can be incorporated not only in the short term but also as a means of strategic planning for the future,” Koval said.