Alders voted sixteen to four to establish a new civilian oversight committee for the Madison Police Department last night.
Now, three alders–Rebecca Kemble, Donna Moreland and Shiva Bidar– will begin laying the financial and legal groundwork for the oversight committee. The three alders will finish up their work by early August, with plans for the final oversight committee to begin its work this October.
But last night’s vote was not without debate.
Alders Samba Baldeh, Sheri Carter, Barbara Harrington-McKinney, and Paul Skidmore voted against the resolution, pushing instead for the inclusion of two additional alders to lay the groundwork for the oversight committee.
According to Alder Samba Baldeh, the selection process for the group was not transparent, and the final members lacked diversity. Baldeh formally introduced an amendment to add two more members to the workgroup.
“I support this oversight, I think it’s really overdue. [But] it’s not inclusive, in my opinion, and it’s not transparent. And so therefore I am not going to vote for this, I am going to vote against it,” he says.
Keith Findley was a member of the city’s ad hoc committee recommending policy and procedure changes to the Madison Police Department. That committee submitted its final report to the Common Council in October, 2019.
Findley says that while he’s disturbed at the selection process, more debate could again bog down the process.
“I think it’s fair to say that for many of us on the ad hoc committee our greatest fear was that our recommendations would sit on the shelf somewhere collecting dust,” he says. “The executive committee’s vote earlier this evening raises real concern that more quibbling about non-substantive matters will push the committee’s most important recommendations further back onto that dusty shelf. Now is the time to move forward.”
Veronica Figueroa, also a former member of the citizen-led ad hoc committee that wrapped up last October, says adding more members to the workgroup would complicate the process.
“Our communities of color can no longer wait for this to happen. Continuing to include more and more people into a simple process doesn’t make any sense. It’s going to create more struggles to get people together to meet, more struggles to put information forward and more time wasted on creating something to move forward,” Figueroa says.
Baldeh’s amendment failed sixteen to four.
Also last night, the council unanimously agreed to reject $50,000 for the Madison Police Department to purchase crowd control equipment.
That was part of a larger request for reallocation of funds from a generator project at the Midtown Police Station. $50K was slated to go to the force’s “intervention equipment project,” which helps equip Madison police officers with less-lethal weapons like foam-tipped projectiles.
The intervention equipment project was also part of the ad hoc committee’s 177 recommendations for the Madison Police Department, alongside the Civilian Oversight Committee.
Another $75,000, which was slated to go to a different generator project, was approved.
Alder Max Prestigiacomo, who represents the UW Campus as well as parts of downtown, introduced the amendment to remove the $50,000 for less-lethal weapons. .
“This is less lethal, but in some ways still can be lethal. We’ve seen how these were used against protesters, and I found that very concerning,” Prestigiacomo says, “We don’t need to give more money to the police to prevent violence at the sacrifice of Black and brown bodies. We can invest that money into other methods of violence prevention.”
The Madison Police Department has been criticized for using pepper spray, tear gas, and foam projectiles against protestors for three consecutive nights two and a half weeks ago.