No funding for new police officers in Madison mayor’s budget

Police chief cites lack of funding for retirement

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway introduced her 2020 operating budget Tuesday, excluding funding for new police officers.

This comes a day after former police Chief Mike Koval told News 3 Now the city government’s lack of priority for public safety matters caused him to abruptly retire.

“Frankly, we’re getting ready to go through another budgetary process where I am completely frustrated in terms of what I believe are important priorities for this department that probably won’t be met,” Koval said Monday.

Interim Chief Vic Wahl said he will continue pleading the department’s case to the mayor and alders, and present data that shows the department needs more officers.

“It’s really just nonstop call to call on many days, where officers don’t have time for a break. They don’t have time for a meal. And not only is that very difficult on the officers to deal with on a day in and day out basis, but it impacts the quality of the service that they’re able to deliver,” said Wahl.

This issue is not new. Wahl said the department has been expecting the budget to not include new officers.

The day after @madisonpolice Chief Koval cited politics & the city’s lack of funding for more cops for his abrupt retirement, the @CityofMadison budget doesn’t include $ for more cops, saying “policing is only 1 component of what makes our city healthy and safe.” #news3now pic.twitter.com/bCYX8hVeyu

— Amanda Quintana (@AmandaQTV) October 1, 2019

“Recognizing the realities of the budget process and the city’s fiscal situation, it was pretty clear we were not going to get all those officers and all the positions. So that’s why Chief Koval made the decision to move 12 non-patrol positions, eliminate them and move them into patrol,” Wahl said.

Alder Paul Skidmore said that’s not enough.

“We’re hemorrhaging and this is putting a tourniquet on it. It’s only going to get worse. We’re still grossly understaffed in terms of patrol,” said Skidmore. “I think that the budget does us a disservice. We need to add officers, we’ve needed to add them for a number of years and unfortunately it doesn’t surprise me, but it worries me about what’s going to happen.”

The mayor’s budget does include funding for the hiring of an independent police auditor to focus on accountability within the police department.

The position was recommended by the Police Policy and Procedure Ad-Hoc Committee.

Although Rhodes-Conway said the position does not have a job description yet, “The idea is to have an independent individual who is able to look at any incidents or any investigations that would happen inside the police department and to have an independent eye onto those things.”

Wahl said the department is not in opposition to the independent auditor.

“The devil is really in the details, as we need to see exactly how the position will be designed and what the exact mission and function will be and who’s going to be in it,” said Wahl.

He said if done properly and with the right person, the position could help develop trust in the community.

Wahl said a positive piece of the budget is funding for annual mental health check-ins for police staff.

“For those people that might be going through some trouble or struggle and might need some additional assistance, this can be a conduit to other layers of support,” said Wahl.

Rhodes-Conway said her proposed budget is “fiscally responsible” and invests in things that are really important to the community, including funding a teen programming specialist at Warner Park Community Recreation Center and a teen librarian at the Goodman South Library.

NOW: @src2 announces @CityofMadison 2020 budget, which includes strategies to support children & teens. She says she’s keeping priorities in mind that she gathered on the campaign trail. #news3now pic.twitter.com/M2or0pK7UQ

— Amanda Quintana (@AmandaQTV) October 1, 2019

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