‘There needs to be actual community exchange’: Some say final interview process for Madison police chief lacks transparency

MADISON, Wis. — Along with announcing the four finalists for the open Madison police chief position on Friday, the Police and Fire Commission also released details about their final interview process. For some, it isn’t as transparent as they expected it to be.

The PFC said they will interview the candidates for the last time next Tuesday. A 35-minute video will be recorded showing each candidate answer questions. According to a news release, those videos will then be made public on Wednesday.

But some community members thought they’d be able to ask the finalists questions before a decision was made.

“Candidates providing a video is not going to be sufficient. There needs to be actual community exchange. The community needs to be given an opportunity to interact with these candidates so we can get an idea of who they are as people,” said Shadayra Kilfoy-Flores.

Kilfoy-Flores is a longtime community activist who is also on the city’s newly-created Police Civilian Oversight Board.

She said “right now it’s the turning (point), the detrimental point that community be involved.”

“Meaningful public input and engagement” during the interview process was one of the many recommendations from the 2017 OIR report.

Part of the report suggested, “A number of jurisdictions have recently included a public component to the Chief selection process in which community panels are provided the opportunity to ask questions and engage with the final set of candidates.”

Kilfoy-Flores was under the impression that would happen.

“With a city like Madison, that absolutely has to happen. The community has to feel as though they’re part of these really big decisions that are going to affect our entire community,” she said.

News 3 Now reached out to the PFC. An attorney for the group said “to ensure a fair process,” they wouldn’t comment on the candidates any further besides providing the 35-minute videos.

Kilfoy-Flores wants to see the PFC change the private interviews to more of a public townhall where community members can ask questions.

“There should’ve been more community input at every step of the way, but particularly at this point. It’s absolutely essential to establish some sort of trust,” said Kilfoy-Flores.

The PFC did collect public comment over the last few months, including through a survey that got more than 500 responses and through multiple virtual town halls.

The PFC has the option to decide on a new police chief on Wednesday, but could take another meeting to discuss.

For more information on the backgrounds of the four finalists, click here.

Madison police chief candidates

The finalists for Madison’s police chief are Shon F. Barnes, Ramon S. Batista, Jr., Christopher A. Davis, and Larry R. Scirotto