‘It’s beyond time we did this’: Madison Common Council approves resolution taking next step in creating police oversight board

Council removes funding for less lethal weapons from resolution

MADISON, Wis. — City of Madison leaders have taken the next step to create a civilian board overseeing the Madison Police Department.

The Madison Common Council voted to approve a resolution Tuesday night that would push the process forward. The decision comes after council members received hundreds of emails on the topic and public comment from more than a dozen in support of the resolution, with  one call in opposition.

Many speakers, including those who were on the Ad Hoc Committee that recommended the board in the first place, questioned why the process was taking so long.

“Now is the time for us to do the work of translating the recommendations into law by writing ordinance and budget amendments to make it real, and I urge everyone to vote for this,” said Alder Rebecca Kemble prior to the vote. “It’s beyond time we did this.”

The resolution will set up a three-alder work group to implement the board, including budgeting, creating ordinances and identifying community organizations who can nominate members of the civilian oversight board.

The mayor and alders would appoint board members from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. University of Wisconsin-Madison Law student Chris Rudolph spoke in support of the resolution in addition to the importance of including the community in choosing who sits on the board.

“Other cities have been down this path but failed to include community from the beginning,” Rudolph said. “If advocacy groups are involved in creating the independent auditor position and in choosing who fills that role, then those groups will have some stake in the success of that position. If the community is not included and does not feel personally invested in the success of the auditor, then this whole process will only further alienate the people currently calling for reform.”

The board’s duties would provide input on the police chief and a yet-to-be-hired independent police monitor as well as make recommendations on use of force and officer discipline, although the ultimate authority to discipline and fire officers still lies with the city’s police and fire commission.

Officials hope to have the board in operation by October.

The Common Council also approved an amended resolution, removing $50,000 for less lethal equipment such as projectile launchers from the proposed budget change while still allowing $75,000 to go to the East District Station’s generator project.

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