MADISON, Wis. - The Madison police force is officially under new leadership. Mike Koval was sworn in Wednesday afternoon. He's Madison's 29th chief in the department's 158-year history.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison alum and former hostage negotiator was also the department's head of recruitment and training.
Koval often says he wants the public to view police officers as guardians rather than soldiers. There's a north side officer who embodies that and it has helped to bring one community closer.
The area has faced some gang and drug issues, which police said led to a 2011 fatal shooting and at the same time, the first community officer was hired.
"(David Dexheimer) knows a lot of youth that come to the Vera Court Community Center, their families and he works with the families outside of his work," said Center leader Patrick Schrank.
Officer Dexheimer often visits the Community Center and Schrank said his qualities are key to create successful community-policing. The 17-year department veteran passed Chief Koval's training academy and has made friends and progress in the neighborhood quickly.
"He's asking the right questions and he follows through and remembers significant events in people's lives, that's the kind of people anybody would relate to," said Koval.
Last fall, Dexheimer helped neighbors install speed bumps to slow down traffic after a girl was hit on her bike. And just two weeks ago, he designed plots for a community garden.
"It's not all about the crime-fighting model that works for us; frankly, that doesn't work as well as us getting closer to the citizens and in that sense our neighborhood officers are a perfect extension of grass roots policing," said Koval.
Koval said, as chief, he'll continue to work to find good officer candidates. The recruitment and training academy is 4 ½ months, one of the longest in the country and focuses on criminal law and ethics.
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