The initiative is called the Police Intervention Equipment program, and it provides less lethal crowd control measures to Madison police officers.
That includes the use of foam-tipped projectiles.
The program was rolled out this year in response to a recommendation to, “Consider acquisition and training in additional well-developed, less lethal tools, such as newer options for chemical sprays and better/safer kinetic weapons.”
That comes from a final report from a citizen-led review committee to recommend changes to Madison Police’s internal operations. That same committee also recommended the formation of a civilian review committee, which the common council approved last week.
The program was included in the capital budget request, which funds physical infrastructure and facility costs.
Last week, the Madison Police Department attempted to transfer $50,000 from a separate capital budget project into the Intervention Equipment program. That was shut down after Alder Max Prestigiacomo introduced an amendment to block the budgetary transfer at last week’s common council meeting.
“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,” Prestigiacomo said at the meeting.
The Madison Police Department is also requesting more than fourteen million dollars to construct a new North side police station. The money would be spread across a five year planning and building process. The current North District police station is the oldest police facility in the city.
And the Madison Police Department says it’s at capacity, and isn’t equipped to handle population growth on the north side. City estimates predict 70,000 new residents over the next two decades, and the North Side could be a hotspot for growth.
The requests come after Madison’s police have faced criticism for use of force against protesters earlier this month. In response to property damage along State Street and throughout downtown, officers deployed foam bullets and tear gas against crowds of demonstrators.
Last night, Madison police officers used pepper spray to disperse a crowd while responding to a hit and run.
The requests come as the City is expected to face a $30 million budget shortfall for 2020.
According to City Finance Director Dave Schmiedicke, Madison is mainly altering its operating budget, not its capital budget for 2020 to account for the deficit. He says this year’s budgetary issues are significantly impacting the planning process for 2021.
“We’re projecting on a cost-to-continue operating budget, a gap of 20-25 million dollars [for 2021],” he says. “We expect to see lower revenues in 2021 due to the COVID pandemic. So the instructions to agencies for creating their operating budgets include no increases from their cost-to-continue and then most agencies have been asked to provide a five percent reduction plan to help close the gap.”
At a finance committee meeting earlier this month, city budgetary analyst Laura Larsen said that the city’s Department heads will need to dramatically adjust their budgets in the coming months to account for the deficit.
“So in the Mayor’s guidance she’s really challenging agencies to try to be as creative as possible in realizing the targeted levels of reductions. This will not be an easy number for any of our city agencies to hit,” she said. “This is not going to be an easy puzzle to put together and to work our way out of.”
Now, as the city attempts to climb out of the financial hole caused by COVID-19, the MPD has dropped its total capital budget requests by $100,000, down to $635,000.
The Mayor’s proposed budget will head to the Common Council this September, where it will be reviewed by the Finance Committee and the Council as a whole, and is expected to be passed in late fall.
Budget requests are available online at http://cityofmadison.com/budget