Officials reviewing police oversight proposals in Madison

MADISON (WKOW) -- City leaders are working on new steps that would bring more accountability to the Madison Police Department.

Alders on the Finance Committee advanced plans Tuesday night to create a civilian board to oversee the police department. They voted to approve a small group of alders to meet to start planning what that will look like.

"It's beyond time for us to get moving and to do action on this and we can't just do it haphazardly. We can't just do it out of a sense of, 'we need a good press release tomorrow.' We have to do it mindfully, with the faith that the ad hoc committee has put in us, that the community has put in us, that we will do this in an open and transparent and expeditious process, but we need to do it right," said Alder Rebecca Kemble, at the meeting Tuesday night.

It's one of two recommendations city officials are considering right now. They came out of an independent review of MPD after Tony Robinson's death in 2015.

"We need to work on getting both items up and running," Council President Sheri Carter said. "The longer we take to do it, the more people are gonna say that we did not hear them."

The committee did not yet approve the other, hiring an auditor to review police. They'll reconsider it at their next meeting in July.

"The city has taken too long to move these proposals forward," said Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. "My office had been working hard, particularly on the position of independent auditor, and on starting to lay out the framework for that. But I think it's become even more urgent to get that person hired."

The mayor says with the coronavirus pandemic impacting the economy, it's not clear what may change.

"We did fund it in the 2020 budget, so the money actually is in the budget right now. It's part of why I feel a sense of urgency to get somebody hired, but overall, yes, we are facing pretty serious funding issues and I am concerned about everything going forward, honestly, and there's going to be some hard decisions," she told 27 News.

As the community calls for the city to cut funding for the police department, Mayor Rhodes-Conway says she needs to hear more specific plans.

"We need to have that conversation. We need to think about how we are promoting safety in our neighborhoods," she said. "I don't know what this next budget will bring. There's so many questions, but I do think that we need to both look at how we make sure that we are carefully pushing forward the work of the ad hoc task force and the reforms that are called for there and at the same time looking at how we're investigating in our community to create safety beyond the police department."

The city's Public Safety Review Committee is also considering these two proposals for police oversight. That committee is meeting Wednesday evening, where they'll also discuss MPD policies and procedures.

Ultimately, the entire Common Council will need to vote on the measures.

More at WKOW 27 News

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