‘I must assume that they are unwilling to embrace change’: Mayor Rhodes-Conway responds to police union vote of no confidence

MADISON, Wis. — Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway has responded to the Madison police union’s vote of no confidence.

Early Monday morning, the Madison Professional Police Officers’ Association said the vote was the result of “many months of frustration in the absence of effective leadership from the Mayor.”

In a statement released late Monday morning, Rhodes-Conway said it’s “extremely unfortunate that MPPOA has failed to realize the importance of this time, and is sowing division instead of stepping up to partner with the community and the rest of City government.”

“When I met with MPPOA on July 7th, I asked them not to rest on their past successes, but to be leaders in their field by reimagining what policing needs to be to meet the needs of our entire community,” Rhodes-Conway said in a statement. “I asked them what changes to policing and public safety in Madison they will champion. I asked them what they will support now and publicly. I asked them how they can embrace change in the spirit of serving our community. I have yet to hear a response, and based on their statement today, I must assume that they are unwilling to embrace change.”

Rhodes-Conway said she had previously asked the police union to reopen their contract because the city can not afford the terms negotiated by former Mayor Paul Soglin’s administration, according to Rhodes-Conway’s statement. Rhodes-Conway said MPPOA declined to discuss the topic.

Rhodes-Cnoway said she recognizes that budget cuts, which her administration is asking every agency to implement, will be difficult for workers, including police officers. However, Rhodes-Conway said she thinks it’s time for the city to re-examine it’s past approaches to public safety.

“This is the beginning of a process, not the end. I again invite MPPOA to work with us both to balance the budget and to re-imagine how we provide public safety to all of Madison,” Rhodes-Conway said.

Rhodes-Conway’s full statement is available here:

“Our community is experiencing a very challenging time, one that requires more from all of us. We are in a time of change – our community is demanding oversight and accountability; our community is demanding reform and leadership that is able to re-imagine policing. This work is difficult, and will be most successful if we can all work together for the good of our community. It is extremely unfortunate that MPPOA has failed to realize the importance of this time, and is sowing division instead of stepping up to partner with the community and the rest of City government.

When I met with MPPOA on July 7th, I asked them not to rest on their past successes, but to be leaders in their field by re-imagining what policing needs to be to meet the needs of our entire community. I asked them what changes to policing and public safety in Madison they will champion. I asked them what they will support now and publicly. I asked them how they can embrace change in the spirit of serving our community. I have yet to hear a response, and based on their statement today, I must assume that they are unwilling to embrace change.

I understand and respect the tough job that rank and file officers have to do everyday, especially during this historic time period when our residents are rightfully demanding more of us. As support for social services have declined over the years, officers have been asked to be  social workers, mental health workers, and more. It is time to re-balance these roles and find other options to deal with calls for help that
do not necessarily require an armed officer.

I stand ready to work alongside the City employees who are ready to explore new solutions and remain open to change.

As MPPOA knows in issuing this political statement, we are preparing for a very tough budget that will require big changes. We have already asked all agencies to propose cuts of 5%, and we asked both the police and fire unions to reopen their contracts because the City cannot afford the terms negotiated during the previous administration. We recognize this – and other budget measures – will be tough on our city employees, and we have been working with our unions and associations to address these challenges. Unfortunately, MPPOA declined to participate in the most recent meeting on this topic.

This is the beginning of a process, not the end. I again invite MPPOA to work with us both to balance the budget and to re-imagine how we provide public safety to all of Madison.”