For those of us here in Madison who remember when the Reverend David Couper was our police chief, it is impossible to watch the events in Ferguson, Missouri and not think of Couper’s law enforcement philosophy.
Though semi-retired as an Episcopal priest, Couper continues to write regularly on policing issues, including the now two-year-old, but more relevant than ever book, Arrested Development. His blog Improving Police has featured a number of entries on Ferguson, all of them thoughtful analysis including the recent piece on the justification of the cost of police training when compared to the economic and relational costs of the conflict in Ferguson. We know that will resonate with current Madison Chief Mike Koval who both trained hundreds of Madison cops and was himself hired by Chief Couper.
But more important is Couper’s belief in what the relationship between a community and its police officers says about both. There are a lot of serious issues facing law enforcement today but at a very fundamental level citizens must demand a high level of knowledge, sensitivity, accountability and transparency from its public safety providers. While we’ve had our issues here recently, we think the comparison with Ferguson is illustrative, reassuring, and worth our constant attention.