After $400K study, firm reveals preliminary MPD recommendations

After $400K study, firm reveals preliminary MPD recommendations

More than a year after the Madison Common Council voted to authorize a $400,000 study into policies and practices of the city’s police department, the outside firm hired to conduct the study outlined preliminary findings to a city committee Wednesday.

The full report is expected to be released in December.

While the study has proved controversial, with Chief Mike Koval previously questioning the need for a study costing six figures when the department had officer staffing issues, its authorization was broadly supported by city alders.

Representatives from the OIR Group, in a presentation to the city’s ad hoc Committee on Madison Police Department Policy and Procedure Review, started the presentation by saying the department has plenty of strengths, like its training procedures and diversity of officers.

“We find that the MPD is an effective and impressive agency in many ways,” OIR consultant Michael Gennaco said. “There’s a history of innovative and progressive approaches in this city that I don’t think many other cities could even hold a candle to or compare to.”

However, Gennaco said his firm saw certain things the department could stand to change.

He said officers have a “justified pride in the department’s reputation,” but, at times, an avoidance towards introspection.

Gennaco also said MPD should improve its community engagement, particularly in how it responds to critical incidents like police shootings.

“When people ask more focused questions about controversial incidents, there seems to be a reluctance to provide constructive or helpful answers,” Gennaco said.

Other recommendations included changes to the internal affairs process as well as re-introducing employee evaluations, which consultants said have not been occurring in recent years.

Consultants said they believe implementing all of the recommendations is doable, but a few tenets would be particularly challenging. Some recommendations are intertwined with the department’s union contract and could only be changed through collective bargaining, Gennaco said.

Madison police Capt. Mary Schauf worked with the group during the study process and was present at Wednesday’s meeting. She said she’s looking forward to seeing the full written report.

“We heard some positive things and we’ve heard there’s some room for growth,” Schauf said. “It’s kind of a rare opportunity, so we’ll take and use that and hopefully it’ll be a learning experience for our entire community and we’ll be able to be a better department at the end of the process.”

Schauf acknowledged that implementing some of the proposals could be challenging.

“Some of these are bigger items and some of them require agreement from a broad group of people,” she said. “(It) sounds like some of the things that they’re going to propose will take heavy lifting.”

“We’ll take all the feedback to heart,” Schauf said. “(I’m) anxious to see that next step.”

OIR plans to present its full report at the committee’s next meeting on Dec. 14.