Madison Council overwhelmingly adopts police oversight measures

MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison's Common Council voted to authorize more oversight of the city's police department during a meeting that started Tuesday night.

The proposal creates an independent monitor and a civilian oversight board.

The entities will work together to review police operations and make policy recommendations to the police department.

There were four items on the council'sagendarelated to the monitor and oversight board:

  • Adopting a report from an alder workgroup to develop logistics and operational details for civilian oversight of the Madison Police Department
  • Creating an ordinance establishing the Office of the Independent Police Monitor and the Police Civilian Oversight Board
  • Amending the 2020 operating budget to create the Office of the Independent Police Monitor and create the position of the Independent Police Monitor and to provide funding for a Police Civilian Oversight Board
  • Adding the position of Independent Police Monitor as a Compensation Group 21 level employee

Council members took up all four items together in order to hear public comment. According to District 4 Alder Michael Verveer, they all were all overwhelmingly adopted.

A number of people signed up to speak about the idea.

Council members began their debate after public comment ended and voted just before 3 a.m.

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway released a statement early Wednesday morning:

"The passage of a Police Monitor and the Civilian Oversight Board is a milestone for our City and our state. I hope this long-awaited effort will result in the transparency the community demands, as well as contribute to greater community confidence and trust in our police department. 

I know some people have concerns or questions about how the Monitor and Oversight Board will work. According to the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, there are now 166 oversight bodies across the nation including in some of America’s largest cities. While this oversight mechanism is new to us in Madison, I hope it will help us communicate what we are doing well and identify where we can do better. 

Under Wisconsin law, the Police and Fire Commission (PFC) is the body responsible for the discipline and termination of police officers. The Monitor and Oversight Board will have a broader mandate to review police department policies and practices and conduct investigations when necessary. They will also make recommendations to the Police Chief and the PFC, and play a key role in communicating with the public and receiving public comment and input.

Experts note that the most effective oversight bodies are the ones that establish themselves as independent, effective, and fair. Community groups now have an opportunity to put forward a strong set of candidates to serve as a foundation for a new era of transparency, cooperation and continuous improvement.​"

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