The Madison Police and Fire Commission heard a safety sermon of sorts from a police chief turned pastor Monday night. It was David Couper who came out, along with a few dozen members of the public.
"I think the real question for Madison in this time and date is whether or not they're going to have a good police department continue, just a good police department," Couper said. "Or is it going to be a great police department?"
The PFC listened to a handful of comments, all pitching ideas for Madison's new police chief.
Noble Wray retired late last month, and Assistant Chief Randy Gaber is filling the role while the group looks for Wray's replacement.
PFC members expect to collect input through the end of the month from academic and professional experts, Madison neighbors and the department's employees. After that, an application and interview process will take place. The PFC expects to name a new chief by early 2014.
"This is probably the biggest decision that they'll make in their public careers, bar none," Couper said.
Monday night's listening session was just one piece of the public comment puzzle. Those who attended could choose to speak or turn in written suggestions.
Couper told News 3 violence is the main issue any new leader will have to deal with.
"They need to talk about how deadly force is being used," Couper explained. "And I think that's eroded a certain amount of trust in the community.”
Couper said depending on who the PFC settles on to take the job, it could mean new training.
"I think that a thinking police department talks to the community and takes a look at what's out there and tries to develop strategies that do not end up in people dying," Couper said.
Former Madison officer Cheri Maples also spoke to the PFC about deadly force tactics and protocol.
"I can't think of anything else that brings down the trust of a community more than the fear that police will be using deadly force in situations that don't call for it," Maples said.
Couper stressed to the PFC his faith in the future of the department.
"We are to be the best police department in America," Couper said.