Last night, during a nearly nine hour meeting, the Madison City Council voted for two major measures to create civilian oversight of the Madison Police Department. Many Madison residents spoke up at the virtual City Council meeting, showing their support the long-awaited measures to bring more accountability and transparency.
Urban Triage founder Brandi Grayson challenged members of the council on their support of Black people. She says voting for the measures, unlike publicly voicing support for Black Lives Matter, would actually support Black Madison residents. “I’m asking that you guys do what is right by Black people as they’re alive,” she says. “Please don’t show up with proclamations for Brandi Grayson if one of your police end up killing me.”
The measures would establish an independent police monitor and a civilian review board to the Madison Police Department. Both were highlights of recommended changes from an ad-hoc, civilian-led committee that studied the practices, policies, and procedures of the Madison police over four years. For police reform activists who have been working on this for years, this is a milestone win towards community control of the police.
The Police Monitor will review use of force incidents, help process citizen complaints toward the police department, and provide an independent review of police operations. It would not have disciplinary authority over the Madison Police Department — that falls to the independent statutory body Madison Police and Fire Commission. Although, the monitor could bring legal help for citizens navigating the complaint process with the PFC.
The second measure, the civilian oversight board, will provide a mechanism for community input and transparency on police processes. Members of the board will be composed of people nominated by organizations such as Urban Triage, Freedom Inc, and YWCA as well as the Madison Mayor and Common Council. Members cannot be a police officer, have served MPD in the last 10 years, or have immediate family members that are police. Members of the civilian review board would earn a $100 stipend per month, and child care would be provided for those who might need it.
Some members of the public speaking last night criticized the community groups that would be allowed to nominate members of the board. However, Professor of Law and co-founder of the Wisconsin Innocence Project at UW-Madison Keith Findley says that including the voices of those who criticize the police is critical to a successful oversight board. “Being critical of the police, or even very critical of police, shouldn’t be a disqualifier, given that one of the purposes of the board is to bring together the MPD and representatives of Madison’s most heavily policed and marginalized communities, the very communities that harbor the most distrust of MPD,” Findley says. “It’s essential they have a place at the table. If they don’t, this board will never be viewed by community members as anything more than more of the same, as another attempt to silence those perspectives.” Findley co-chaired the civilian ad hoc committee that recommended both measures
A work group of Madison alders Donna Moreland, Shiva Bidar, and Rebecca Kemble has been working for months to set up the final details of both offices, and last night the council voted to accept their recommendations. Alder Paul Skidmore voted against and Alder Barbara Harrington-McKinney abstained.
The council also approved adding $200,000 to the 2020 budget for related expenses, and at least $480,000 will be worked into the 2021 budget. Nominations for the review board will be made by the end of this month, and appointments will be presented to the common council on October 6th.
Photo by Brian Standing for WORT-FM