Mayor wants to improve culture, build community trust after East Towne Mall incident

Mayor wants to improve culture, build community trust after East Towne Mall incident

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said he may want to spend up to six figures on changing the culture within city government, including police.

Soglin answered questions from the media Monday following the arrest of a woman at East Towne Mall last week.

Soglin offered few details of what that change might look like and said while he is not looking to lay blame, he is hoping to find solutions to promote change.

“What I want to do is work with city council and the residents of the city in getting into depth into how we change performance in regards to culture and how we create a system that is focused on what is right and not what may be within the law,” he said.

His comments come after 18-year-old Genele Laird’s Tuesday arrest that was caught on cellphone video, showing Madison police officers hit Laird with a stun gun and striking the 18-year-old. Police say Laird was resisting arrest.

Soglin said his focus is to “improve culture and build trust in the community.”

“We cannot treat this incident as normal. Having said that, it’s less than one fraction of a percent of arrests that result in a serious confrontation and taking a person into custody. Our mission is to make that zero,” he said.

When commenting on the specific video, Soglin said he would like to see arrests made without that kind of force.

“This is a matter that is both of a legal nature and of culture. We may not have the ability to completely control the law but we can influence the culture,” Soglin said.

Soglin did not specify what plans he has for change, but he said it could include but not be limited to implementing a “quality officer,” who would “lead, teach and coach officers” to create trust.

Soglin said the study or program could cost the city up to six figures. This would be separate from the $400,000 the council approved for a review of the police department.

Soglin said this is just the discussion phase. He said he is in talks with department heads and will work with the council to discuss the best option.

“What I’m interested in is a discussion that leads to specific acts that corrects the deficit between what may be within the law and the kind of culture we want within the city,” he said.