The Madison Police Civilian Oversight Board announced the final four candidates for the city’s first Independent Police Monitor last Thursday. And they’re moving at a rapid clip to hire someone, leaving the public less than a week to weigh their options for the new position.
The position was created about two years ago. The person who fills the position will carry some unique responsibilities and powers, like investigating complaints against police and subpoenaing records. The Independent Monitor will also recommend policy changes and engage with the community.
The monitor could make anywhere from $104,000 to $141,000 a year, according to the position description. The upper figure is nearly as much as the state Attorney General’s salary.
After a previously drawn-out and botched attempt to hire a final candidate, the Civilian Oversight Board had to restart the hiring process earlier this summer. The job posting for the Independent Monitor was posted June 1st, with a 6 week window for people to apply. And while the first hiring round for the position last year took about 20 weeks for the city to offer the position to a candidate, this time the city is hoping to do it in 11 weeks. And now, it’s leaving only five days for the public to give their thoughts on the candidates.
Last Thursday, the oversight board held a candidate forum introducing the four candidates to the Madison community. With a final hiring decision expected to come this Thursday, that left only one week for the public to examine the candidates for Independent Police Monitor.
So here are the candidates: Robert Copley, Rodney Saunders Jr., John Tate II, and Joel Winnig.
Robert Copley is government transparency attorney, and has worked with the Milwaukee Police Department to ensure the department fulfilled open-records requests and stayed open to the public.
“I believe that policing itself is an inherently necessary part of any functioning society,however it is also the most immediately recognizable and impactful form of state power, and thus needs to be heavily scrutinized by the community it is itself supposed to be serving. Any law itself is a social contract, but it is the enforcement of the law itself that draws the difference between social harmony and oppression,” Copley says.
Rodney Saunders Jr. works with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to help bring diversity to the DOT. He also worked with unhoused folk here in Dane County.
“…in both of those roles I saw the gaps in law enforcement between mental health services and over reliance on policing, which I believe both increases the difficulty for the vulnerable populations and the providers that work with those populations, and overburdens law enforcement. I’ve seen stark gaps in every way, from infant mortality rates, education, incarceration, income equality, and more, between majority groups and people of color,” Saunders Jr. says.
John Tate II calls himself a social worker, and is the Racine city council president and was chair of the state parole commission.
“In those roles, my objective has always been to identify the inequities and identify the systems and how we can shift those systems to better serve the populations that are within them. I’m taking the perspective of understanding people in their environment, both the macro and the micro of everything we experience, both the person and how they operate within the system,” Tate II says.
Joel Winnig is a Madison native and attorney, who had previously ran for State Supreme Court in 2011. At the time, Winnig said that he ran for the seat because he disagreed with sitting justice Michael Gableman, calling his 2008 reelection campaign quote “the most despicable things I’ve seen in the legal profession,” end quote.
“My goal is to help as many people as possible, and to be as affordable as possible. I did that with significant success for over 40 years, I represented individuals who almost always had fewer resources than the other side of their case.”
Winnig says that, as someone who has witnessed the Madison police department for over 50 years, he thinks Madison has one of the best police departments in the country.
“I think there’s great potential to work with the police department to continue that progressive policing and to improve wherever improvement is needed,” Winnig says.
Rodney Saunders Jr., however, says that as a Black man living in Madison, he still sees pretty big disparities within the police department.
“The Madison Police Department has lower arrests than the national average, but unfortunately, Black folks in particular are arrested at twice the rate than the national average and 11 times more than their white and hispanic counterparts,” Saunders Jr. says.
While Winnig was the only candidate who had read the report written by the Madison Police Policy and Procedure Committee, a report containing 177 recommendations to the department, John Tate II says that many of those recommendations are universal.
“Everyone can identify at least one instance that might not even be close to Wisconsin, because that is still ultimately the culture and training and practice of policing that could happen here,” Tate II says.
Robert Copley says that his experience with the Milwaukee police department has given him special insight into how to make the Madison police department more transparent.
“One of the main challenges I encountered at my current job was the handling of body-worn camera footage, specifically how that relates to police transparency and handing that out in public records requests both to the public and to the media itself,” Copley says.
This is not the first time the city has come close to hiring an Independent Monitor. The oversight board had originally estimated that an Independent Monitor would be hired in October of last year. Instead, the board offered the position to Madison civil rights administrator Byron Bishop on December 16th of that year. Less than one month later, Bishop turned down the position after past workplace allegations were brought up against him.
The survey to give your thoughts on the candidates closes at midnight tonight, and the survey is available on the city of Madison’s website.
The final pick for the position will be announced at the oversight board’s meeting this Thursday.
Photo courtesy: Brian Standing / WORT Flickr