Chief Koval: “We have a problem”

MADISON (WKOW) — Madison’s top cop is acknowledging a low morale in his police force as four newer officers turned in their resignation papers in recent months.

The problem is two-fold, but Chief Mike Koval believes it’s fixable.

“Now, more than ever, we are feeling the pains of what this difficult occupation holds,” said Koval, who has led the department for five years.

He’s helped train and groom nearly all 477 of the men and women in blue at the Madison Police Department. Each one of them has taken the oath to serve and protect the city.

“The nobility as a police officer is still worthy of that time, that sacrifice, that effort,” Chief Koval said.

However, some are second-guessing the job.

“I think that their morale is down, that they feel underappreciated, that they constantly feel under scrutiny, that every decision is magnified,” he added.

It’s gotten so bad the 35-year law enforcement veteran wouldn’t recommend the job to his own sons.

In his blog, Koval wrote, “truth be told, I say a silent prayer of relief that neither son is interested in following the career path that I took.”

He believes there are two main problems causing the low morale:

  1. Low community support for a tarnished profession after several high profile, officer-involved shootings around the nation, including in Madison
  2. A dwindling staff and problems recruiting new officers due to lack of interest and lack of funding.

“I’m concerned about the trajectory of perceptions of policing,” Chief Koval said in an interview with 27 News. “When you’re doing your job and everything is predicated on the veil of race and that that’s what is prompting the officers’ actions. The Monday morning quarterbacking, the would-a, could-a, should-a.”

He knows he has the support of parts of the community, but realizes there are still many who don’t wholeheartedly back the badge.

“There comes a time when we have to not be quite so polarizing and understand that the challenges of policing are such that we’re not asking mere mortals to do an inconceivably tough job,” Chief Koval said.

As 27 News reported in October, the department is also facing an aging workforce with many officers set to retire and the force can’t seem to get ahead in recruitment.

“We have the staffing issue. I’m told that from a fiscal standpoint, don’t hold your breathe. So, if I can’t get it through bodies, then how am I going to create those opportunities for respite?” he asked.

The long hours, demanding work and lack of off-time means the adrenaline-driven job is taking its toll on the force.

“There’s an inability to get time off for the rest when they need it, when they have to have it,” he said.

“This is going to be a chronic discussion for years to come that far transcends the City’s fiscal capacities… it goes to the heart of recruitment, retention, health and wellness,” Chief Koval wrote in his blog.

MPD already does various community outreach. Chief Koval is now searching for more solutions to boost morale.

In the meantime, he hopes the community can come together and support the officers who take an oath to protect and serve even those citizens whose support they lack.

“It used to be, this was your job for life. Retention was a non-issue. Retention is now an issue,” Koval admitted.

More on this story at WKOW 27 News

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