Police chief, study say MPD needs more officers

An MPD patch
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Madison police Chief Mike Koval said he needs more officers to serve the city.

A study of the department’s staffing was released this week in the chief’s blog. The report, conducted by the Madison Police Department and city finance department, compares city of Madison staffing to other cities and their needs.

Koval said the numbers show MPD not only has less officers for a city its size, but also is in need of 13 additional patrol officers solely to handle the current workload or services will suffer.

“If we continue to sort of go on as we are going on, it’s going to mean that we are going to have to start rationing the type of services that we provide and the timeliness in which those services can be provided”, Koval said.

The study measured MPD staffing in categories of workload, population ratios and benchmarks. MPD’s officer-to-population ratio is 1.9 based on the 2015 U.S. Census population that estimated Madison’s population at 248,951. The officer-to-population ratios for other cities with populations more than 250,000 ranges from 2.0-3.3, according to the study.

“By all those standards we are lacking behind our contemporaries in looking at the range of services we provide. If you want to curtail those services and just get down to the rudimentary basis of call and response, then perhaps we are not way out of line,” Koval said.

Koval said to keep up with growth and to provide many of the specialized services, like mental health and community officers, additional officers are needed.

“This is not about amassing an empire. This is about keeping the pace with a city that is on an upwardly growth campaign,” Koval said.

Those who want to see less dollars spent on law enforcement do not agree.

“It’s the same old story every year — more police officers, more police officers, more police officers. We can’t just keep adding more police officers,” Progressive Dane co-chair Brenda Konkel said.

The study did not involve citizen input, which Konkel said was a mistake. She believes more resources should be invested into other organizations that can help with issues like mental health, instead of investing additional dollars into the police department.

“They are responding to a lot of things that other people could be responding to, and I think that we should look at separating that from the police department. I think that it would be more efficient and effective and we would get people that are more highly trained to deal with these situations,” she said.

Koval said services like mental health and community officers are resources the community depends on.

“When you look at the quality of life that people want for their families, and raising their kids, and going to work and feeling concern in their homes. At the end of the day, our quality of life measures are inextricably tied to phenomenally good police and fire services,” Koval said.

News 3 reached out to Mayor Paul Soglin for his views on the study; he declined to comment.