Madison Black Officers Coalition hopes to bridge gap between police and Black community

MADISON, Wis. — A newly formed coalition in the Madison Police Department is hoping to bridge the gap between police and the Black community and help retain Black officers.

According to MPD’s 2019 annual report, only about 9% of the department’s officers are Black.

“If you can see someone who looks just like you doing something outside of their normal responsibilities that impacts you directly, you’re doing to develop a relationship not just with the individual or individuals, but with the institutions that they represent,” said Vice President of 100 Black Men of Madison J.R. Sims.

Sims said the 100 decided to partner with the new coalition to help foster the relationship between the Black community and MPD.

“We’re hoping to break some of those [barriers] down and we believe that we will be successful,” Sims said.

The 100 already provides community services to families in need and works directly with members of the Black community. Sims said the 100 decided to partner with the Black Officers Coalition to provide a service it already has and couple that with first responders.

Coalition members prepared and served food to families in need at an event at Metcalfe’s Market last week. Sims said the coalition will be more involved in events like this in the future to help the community get to know police officers as more than just who they are in uniform.

“We need this new generation of officers to see how they can connect with kids today. If it’s via bikes, via pizza, via movie nights, via field trips, whatever it might be, we are there to fund and support and make that happen for them,” said Chair of Madison’s Community Policing Foundation Joe Balles.

Balles formerly served as Captain of Madison’s South Police District for more than seven years where he worked to help build community relations with the police department. When he retired, Balles created the Community Policing Foundation with five other retired officers to continue the work of bridging the gap between the community and police.

Balles said he loves the idea of the Black Officers Coalition and is excited to work with them and provide any funding they may need in the future to help foster trust, admiration and respect.

“It’s all about establishing relationships and really especially with young kids just to give them some time and attention so they can get to know you other than just being a cop.”

The coalition is also looking at ways to help change policies, procedures and city ordinances that disproportionately impact the Black community.

Sims said 100 Black Men of Madison is also working to expand the efforts and partnership it currently has with MPD by working with other first responder groups to also get involved in their community efforts.