Madison could get one step closer to overseeing its police department tonight

MADISON, Wis. — The future of Madison residents overseeing the police department is in the hands of eight Common Council Executive Committee members tonight. The members will vote on whether or not to approve the creation of an independent police monitor position and a civilian oversight board.

“There’s a big problem with trust in the police department,” said member Rebecca Kemble, who is also the alder for district 18.

Kemble said the four agenda items that embody these positions will be discussed at tonight’s CCEC meeting. The items were first referred to Common Council on August 4 and were then sent out to four committees to review: the Finance Committee, Equal Opportunities Commission, Public Safety Review Committee and Common Council.

Kemble along with District 5 Alder Shiva Bidar and District 7 Alder Donna Moreland make up the alder work group which was tasked to develop the four items for review by the other committees for approval. The items passed unanimously at the Finance committee and the Equal Opportunities Commission, and passed with a majority vote at the Public Safety Review Committee.

Tonight, the items will be discussed in front of the Common Council Executive Committee.

Kemble said these positions have been in the works for years, but now is the time to “get the ball rolling.”

“Thousands and thousands of emails we’ve received on this topic,” Kemble said. “God forbid should another police killing of a resident happen, there would truly be independent eyes on that situation and we could have information that the public could actually trust.”

If these items pass through Common Council next Tuesday, the civilian oversight board will be created. Kemble said the board will have 13 members total. Nine members will be nominated by community organizations, four of them will be appointed by the Mayor and common council. CCEC is scheduled to meet September 29 to make the selections.

Kemble said the board members will include “individuals with certain lived experience and individuals with certain racial and ethnic identities.” There will also be restrictions on who can become a member including that the individuals cannot have previous experience as a member of the Madison Police Department and cannot have previously involvement in Wisconsin law enforcement for 10 years. The individuals also cannot have an immediate family member involved in law enforcement at the time of appointment. Kemble said the individuals will serve four year staggered terms. She said for the first iteration of the board, there will be people wo have initial appointments of two, three and four years. After that, everyone will serve four years.

Kemble said by October, we should know who the board is. The board members will be trained and then they will hire an independent police monitor.

“This is a serious, serious issue for our community,’ Kemble said.  “That is what spurred the deep work that this community has done and invested in for the last four years.”

Kemble said the wait for these roles is long overdue, but District 9 alder Paul Skidmore, who will also be voting as a member of the Common Council Executive Committee tonight, said he and several other members are not in favor of passing the items because they feel the selection process is not independent and doesn’t represent the entire community.

“The groups that are being solicited for recommendations have had issues with the police department and do not have favorable opinions of them. So in our opinion, this groups is being set up to be biased against the police department.”

Kemble said she is still hopeful about the decision and said the need for guaranteed separation of the watchdogs and those who are being watched is pertinent.

“If it’s implemented, this will be the most robust community oversight of police that any city has in this country,” Kemble said.