Meet the Chair and Vice Chair of Madison’s first Police Civilian Oversight Board

MADISON, Wis. — At a City meeting Monday, the 11 board members who make up Madison’s first Police Civilian Oversight Board voted in a 8-2 vote with one abstention that Shadayra Kilfoy-Flores will serve as the board’s vice chair, and in a 6-5 vote, Keetra Burnette will serve as the board chair.  The board also voted 6-5 for two Executive Subcommittee members, Maia Pearson and Isadore Knox, Jr.

“I consider it an honor to be considered for this position,” Burnette said.

Burnette currently works at the United Way of Dane County as a staff liaison to the law enforcement and leaders of color collaboration. For the past five years, she’s also worked as a peacemaker with the Dane County Restorative Court.

Burnette has been a Madison resident for the past 24 years. She said she and her and her husband have three college-educated children, two of which are working professionals in Madison.  For the past 20 years, she said she’s worked with organizations that support programs in the community. Burnette previously took on the role as president of Madison’s Network of Black Professionals, formerly served as the Chief Operating Officer with the Urban League where she worked closely with the south Madison community to help fulfill its growing need for resources and was appointed to the State of Wisconsin Speakers Bureau on Racial Disparities. She said she is looking forward to serving in this new role working closely with the community.

“I know that this task won’t be easy,” Burnette said. “When I was first nominated, I wasn’t sure if I should be overjoyed or really afraid because I know this is some serious work that is going to take a serious commitment and is going to require a person who is able to actually get things done.”

Kilfoy-Flores said although her role isn’t defined yet, she knows, “It’s going to take a lot of listening. That’s what’s going to be really important, is listening to what the community needs.”

Kilfoy-Flores identifies as an Indigenous Chicana, the mother of two Black Chicano children and a lifelong Madisonian.

“I am well informed on the strongest civilian oversight mechanisms in this country and aim to see Madison surpass those cities in the area of civilian oversight. I have spent most of my teen and adult life working towards equity, justice and healthy communities for all residents of Madison.”

Kilfoy-Flores said she served on the Multicultural Teen Council, the Dane County Youth Board and attended the Encampment for Citizenship in California as a teenager. As an adult, Kilfoy-Flores said she’s worked as a program facilitator at Briarpatch Youth Services and Centro Hispano, currently serves on the Leadership Council of the Neighborhood Organizing Institute, is a core member of the Community Response Team and was recently elected to the Marquette Neighborhood Association board.

Kilfoy-Flores said she also has lifelong friends who are Madison Police officers as well as lifelong friends who are “terrified of being harmed by the Madison Police Department.” She said her extensive background will help her make neutral decisions as vice chair.

“It’s not as much being  in opposition to the police as accountability,” Kilfoy-Flores said.  “I think that is really where the starting point has to be for there to be trust re-established.”

Kilfoy-Flores added that she was arrested an incarcerated in her youth. As an adult, she is “certified as a participant in restorative justice circles for Dane County.”

The board’s duties include appointing the independent police monitor, conducting police assessments and making 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.

Both women said they hope the board can serve as a model for the rest of the nation.

“I hope that this continues to be a way in which to empower people, particularly people who have experienced brutality and people who are looking for accountability,” Kilfoy-Flores said.

The board will go through training and then will begin the process for hiring an independent police monitor.