Madison’s local police union revoked their support of Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway today.
In an open letter, the Madison Professional Police Officers Association announced a declaration of no confidence, writing “We did not make this decision easily or in haste. Instead, our vote is the culmination of many months of frustration in the absence of effective leadership from the Mayor.”
According to the union’s Board of Directors, more than 95% of the Association’s voting members voted in favor of the no confidence measure.
The union previously endorsed Mayor Rhodes-Conway during her mayoral bid last March.
In this morning’s letter, the union accused Mayor Rhodes-Conway of fostering an “us versus them dichotomy” between the city’s police officers and citizens. They say that she’s quick to point out the police’s failures, but slow to congratulate them on their successes.
Earlier today, Mayor Rhodes-Conway fired back against the open letter, accusing the police union of sowing division in the community. The Mayor also reiterated her ask to the local police and fire unions to renegotiate their contracts to account for a 5% budget cut, which is expected to be levied across all city agencies, and noted the police union had declined to come to the table to discuss the cuts.
“We’re hopeful that the five percent is not something that is going to be required,” Wahl said. “At this stage in the budget process, there’s always a lot of uncertainty for how the budget will look next year. But we’re very hopeful that it won’t come down to that.”
Rhodes-Conway says that, at a meeting on July 7th, she encouraged the Association to embrace change in order to better serve the community. With today’s letter, Rhodes-Conway says the Association has shown that it is “unwilling to embrace change.”
“I trust nothing that the MPPOA puts out. Other than the parts where they blame everyone else. That’s sincere,” says Amelia Royko Maurer, an advocate and founding member of the Community Response Team, a Madison-based community justice organization.
“Most of the officers that I know, that you want to have show up at two in the morning, are those that don’t trust MPPOA,” Royko Maurer says. “MPPOA has a history of harboring ill-behaved officers. So I don’t put any trust or faith that anything they’re saying or doing is coming from an emotionally intelligent place.”
The Community Response Team, along with local community justice organizations Urban Triage and Freedom Inc, recently declared their own vote of no confidence in interim police chief Vic Wahl.
The groups allege that, during his ten-month tenure, Chief Wahl has “treated black residents with very recognizable traits of anti-blackness.”
The letter also raises concerns over the mayor’s proposed 90-day timeline for selecting a new chief of police. According to the Police and Fire Commission, that timeline isn’t feasible. They plan to have a new chief, at the earliest, by this coming December.
Royko Maurer says that the Mayor’s proposed timeline would significantly reduce the time typically allocated for public input.
“There needs to be a robust, public, transparent process that taps into communities most impacted by police contact,” she said. “If you rush that process you’re likely going to eliminate some of those people from the process. To rush that process is to not grasp fully how powerful the chief is over police culture.”
The letter from the Police Association comes as Rhodes-Conway is facing a potential recall election. That campaign has more than a month to gather more than 36,000 signatures to ignite a formal recall vote.
Today’s back and forth also comes after the recent resignation of Deputy Chief Cam McLay, a former captain in the Madison Police Department and Pittsburgh Chief of police. McLay told The Cap Times in an exit interview that “important discussions get lost in the noise surrounding political maneuvering.”