It’s been five years since Tony Terrell Robinson was killed by Madison police officer Matt Kenny.
Last Friday, community members gathered to hold a memorial for Robinson on the anniversary of his death. The celebration started with music and a fashion show at the Wil Mar Center, and as the sun set, mourners held a candlelight vigil.
At the exact time Robinson was shot, protesters occupied Willy Street, reminding the stopped cars of the life that was lost.
In 2015, protests in the streets and the involvement of the Black Lives Matter movement followed Robinson’s death. It also amplified scrutiny of the Madison Police Department’s use of deadly force.
District Attorney Ismael Ozanne declined to prosecute the case, citing a lawful use of deadly police force. Still, the City of Madison paid over 3 million dollars to the family of Mr. Robinson to settle a lawsuit.
The shooting prompted the creation of a citizen-led, ad-hoc committee for the review of the Madison Police Department. This committee worked with the city council to hire an outside consultancy group to conduct a year-long audit of the MPD’s policies and procedures.
The results of that audit, released in December 2017 by the OIR group, included 146 recommendations across a broad range of practices. Some of those recommendations include alternatives to the use of non-deadly force.
Last fall, the committee issued their own report, with 177 recommendations. This report followed not only the OIR’s recommendations from police consultants but also the MPD’s response to those recommendations.
Keith Findley, the ad-hoc committee’s co-chair, said the police department agreed with many of the OIR’s recommendations. So the committee worked to clarify the OIR’s points that the MPD response showed issues with.
Findley specifies that “ although they’re in agreement and they are now doing many of the things in the report, some of those things they weren’t doing before the report came out.”
Mayor Satya Rhodes Conway has already included one recommendation, the creation of an independent monitor, in this year’s budget. That recommendation was considered the capstone of the OIR report by Findley because of the accountability it provides..
“The independent auditor is the notion that there is an independent office that has full access to the police department and their records whose tasks is to hear complaints from the community. But also to sort of review on an on-going basis what the police department is doing to make sure its living up to its ideals, living up to whatever the city council says it expects of it and what not,” explains Findley.
Both reports also recommended considering the implementation of body-worn cameras for police officers, but acknowledge the difficulty in implementation.
This Wednesday, a city of Madison committee will meet to see if they should again study whether police should wear body cameras. It’s the third such committee to look at whether Madison police should wear the cameras.
Sharon Irwin, the grandmother of the late Tony Terrell Robinson, has long supported the implementation of body cameras.
In explaining her support of body-worn cameras, Irwin explains the role of cell phone cameras, in her grandson’s death.
“Cameras don’t lie and the truth will come out,” Irwin says. “You see with Terell you can go online and watch him shoot him the last four times. And all of those shots are the kill shots. If those shots didn’t happen, then Terrell wouldn’t be dead. And there’s no conflict there, you can see him shoot him while he’s on the ground. And yet, he’s still walking away free.”