At tonight’s city council meeting, Madison alders will take steps toward establishing an independent oversight committee for the Madison Police Department.
According to the resolution, the new committee will make “Policy-level recommendations” for the MPD. It will also be responsible for overseeing the proposed independent police monitor and reporting back on the monitor’s findings to the mayor’s office.
A majority of the committee’s members will be nominated by various Madison-based social justice groups. The new group will also dedicate at least a quarter of the open seats to those who have been incarcerated, or have faced mental health or substance use issues.
The common council’s vote on the oversight committee comes after more than two weeks of near continuous protests against police brutality, and years of political pressure from some social justice groups.
Some demonstrators call for community oversight of the police, while others demand a more radical solution: defunding the Madison Police Department.
Freedom Inc. has been one of the primary organizers of Madison’s protests. At a demonstration on June 1st, three days after Madison’s first protest, Freedom Inc Director M Adams outlined the protester’s demands.
“We want a complete defunding. We don’t want this police department to have any resources, which would lead to the abolishment of the police as we understand it. We want that funding to be diverted to pro-black and pro-life affirming safety mechanisms,” Adams said.
The common council’s vote is the latest in a list of studies and committees looking at community control over Madison police. After the murder of Tony Robinson by MPD officer Matt Kenny, the city created an ad hoc committee, and commissioned a $400,000 study from an outside consultant, to recommend changes to MPD policies and procedures.
After four years, the committee issued 177 recommended changes to the MPD last October, including a recommendation for a civilian oversight committee. The common council voted to accept the recommendations in January of 2020.
But, since the council resumed the process earlier this month, there’s been debate over implementation and responsibilities of the oversight committee.
If approved, tonight’s resolution would first create a workgroup of three alders to build the framework for the civilian committee.
According to Alder Rebecca Kemble, who is slated to be on the workgroup, the group will help establish the ordinances needed for the final civilian oversight committee.
“Those of us in the workgroup have committed to making this our number one priority and meeting as many times as we need to in order to get at least the ordinance and perhaps budget amendments done,” she said. “Our city attorneys will need to do some work figuring out the lines of accountability to the common council and the mayor that this new committee will have.”
The workgroup is scheduled to be done by August, with a tentative civilian oversight board in place by October.
Also on this evening’s agenda is a proposed $50,000 for the Madison Police Department to purchase new, less lethal projectile weapons. The funding would be pulled from $125,000 originally designated for improvements to the midtown police station.
Alder Max Prestigiacomo, who represents the UW-Campus as well as parts of downtown, has introduced an amendment to strike the $50,000 for the new weapons, while leaving in $75,000 for a new generator for the east district police station.
The common council will begin its virtual meeting at 6:30 tonight.