OIR, an independent consulting firm that conducts reviews of police practices and policies all over the country, has recommended that the City of Madison create the position of an independent auditor responsible for overseeing the Madison Police Department, among many other recommendations.
OIR, who did a study and review of police practices and community issues relating to policing in Madison, presented its findings to the Policy and Procedure Review Ad Hoc Committee on Thursday night and took questions from members of the City Council.
The 258-page document contains 144 recommendations to change the policies and procedures of the Madison Police Department. The MPD has not yet responded to the findings or recommendations of the report but has announced they will have a public response formulated by January 20th, when members of the community will also be allowed to weigh in and ask questions.
Michael Gennaco, Stephen Connolly and Julie Ruhlin represented the OIR group during Thursday night’s proceedings at the City County Building. They answered every issue with the basic principle that there needs to be communication between the community and the police in a new and deeper way. This was not news to many in attendance and Alder Maurice Cheeks asked the panel to address concerns that the report came at a large price tag — $372,000 — without delivering very much in the way of a meat-and-potatoes solution to the issues. Cheeks also said he understood the group did a very thorough and sweeping study, but that there has been criticism that the report lacks stronger recommendations for how to bridge the gap between police and citizens.
The concept of an independent auditor was perhaps most newsworthy. The three areas the OIR group found to be most important were:
- Racial Disparity issues that the OIR group said “Transcend the police department”
- Uses of force and critical incidents and how they are dealt with internally
- Is there an independent form of civilian oversight?
The OIR group recommended that Madison establish a Police Auditor Office that would collaborate with but be independent of the MPD. The Auditor would identify issues and report regularly with a perspective from outside the department about what’s going on inside the department.
Gennaco told the City Council this was the group’s most important recommendation.
The Police Auditor’s Office would receive public complaints, recommend systemic and policy reform, look at hiring processes, go to the scene of police shootings or other force-related incidents and give reports on all of those things to the public.
Gennaco estimates it would cost approximately $200,000 per year to get the Auditor going.
Overall, the OIR called for more dialogue between residents and the police department and a return to the ideals of communities where officers basically walked a beat helping with non-arrest situations. OIR recommends officers do daily logs noting not just arrests or pullovers, but times they helped residents with problem solving, de-escalation of a situation not leading to arrest, and other issues. More committees, more talking, more oversight, more openness seemed to be the words of the day coming from OIR.
The absence of racial issues as a dominant topic Thursday night also seemed noteworthy. Alder Barbara McKinney was one of the only ones to address racial disparity issues head on during the Q&A when she asked the OIR how they would recommend addressing police presence in schools.
The ACLU has criticized the practice saying that it drives a prison pipeline mentality. McKinney asked OIR specifically how other communities have handled the issues of police in schools. Like with nearly every issue, the answer was the OIR would call for community dialogue and didn’t offer an opinion on whether or not police should be in schools.
The OIR report was sweeping. It was thorough. It covered a wide breadth of topics. But concern remains that it was high on fat but didn’t have a lot of meat.
On January 20, the public will have an opportunity to ask questions about the survey as well as hear feedback from the Madison Police Department about its reaction to the survey.