MPD chief calls for resources in wake of shootings

2nd officer-involved shooting in Madison in just more than 2 weeks
MPD chief calls for resources in wake of shootings
Madison Police Chief Mike Koval

Madison’s police chief is calling for more resources in the wake of two recent officer-involved shootings.

Officers shot 26-year-old Ashley DiPiazza early Sunday morning after a dispute at her home.

Officers responded to a call from her boyfriend, saying she was armed with a gun. DiPiazza allegedly didn’t drop the gun on commands from officers and they shot her.

The Department of Criminal Investigation is looking into the officer-involved shooting, which is the second in Madison in just more than two weeks, and the sixth since a new law governing those investigations went into effect April 26.

New Police Chief Mike Koval said he’s concerned the police shootings are becoming more frequent.

“I think they have become more prominent in Madison, and I think that there is a cause and effect in that we are providing less social service options for folks and less pro-active community engagement for people in crisis,” Koval said.

Koval said his department may also look at their training practices in these crisis cases, as well as more non-lethal interventions and even equipping all squad cars with shields for officers.

The chief said the frequent shootings are also on the minds of every officer in the department.

“I think I’d be naive if I didn’t think that this wasn’t weighing heavily at some level on the psyche of every officer,” Koval said.

Madison police Capt. Sue Williams said she’s been replaying a shooting incident she was involved in on June 25, 2003.

“They call it kind of a tape, and it happens constantly. It doesn’t stop and for me that tape kept playing for days and days,” Williams said of the incident.

On Park Street, she was just starting her day when there was a bank robbery call. She and three other officers responded, spotting the suspect outside a gas station.

“All of a sudden he stopped and grabbed something out of his waist,” Williams said. “He pointed it at the other officer, and I actually saw a muzzle flash. So he took a shot at the other officer, and within seconds there was just nothing, it was just pure silence. And at that time of the morning there wasn’t very many cars or anything and the suspect was down.”

She and the three other officers all fired shots and were were all put on leave. They were ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting, which killed the suspect, 39-year-old Julio Cesar Contreras.

“If you had asked me if I ever thought I was going to be in the position to take somebody’s life I would say absolutely no way,” Williams said.

Williams said she sought counseling; one officer left the force soon after.

Now she and Koval are left mulling over how the most recent incidents in Madison could affect both the people and the policies of the department.

“When I hear the names of the people involved, I’m like, ‘I hired these people,’ and I can only imagine the fear their families are going through and the angst of not knowing or waiting to hear, and wondering how well they’ll get through it,” Williams said.

“I don’t want it to ever get lost in the shuffle that I’ve never met a police officer who hoped that when they started their tour of duty that there would be an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to carry out deadly force,” Koval said. “It’s counter-intuitive to our mission.”