Chief Koval is not fit to be Madison’s police chief. Or anyone’s police chief.
I am a member of the Police Policy and Review Ad-Hoc committee, initiated by Madison’s elected Common Council to conduct a thorough review of the Madison Police Department. A police department that holds the largest arrest ratios, 11-1, in the nation between its black and white citizens, in a city that is among the best places to live if you are white, but one of the worst places to live if you are black.
Koval’s latest blog post shows him to believe that the Madison Police Department is beyond oversight, review, and criticisms, even though he likes to state it is the opposite.
Let’s start off dispelling certain misconceptions Koval has about the request for proposals that we pushed forward to the Common Council.
“This week, the City of Madison Common Council will be voting on a resolution to authorize another $350,000 (in addition to the original $50,000) to study the City of Madison Police Department’s policies/procedures/practices/training/culture and anything else that can be thrown in for good measure.”
The last part here, the “anything else that can be thrown in for good measure.” Well yes, that is true, anything to be thrown in that can create a comprehensive review of the Madison Police Department, which was the charge of the committee in the resolution that was passed by the Common Council. The $400,000 was not just presented as any old random number. This was a number that we arrived at after examining comparable studies of other police departments. And what showed up was that it needed to be $400,000, and anything less would be a farce of a review.
Chief Koval continued:
“Frankly, I believe that the vote on Tuesday by the alders is already a done deal and the resolution will fly through with little or no opposition. (To do otherwise would be tantamount to “treason” for those who wring their hands worried about currying favor with a small group of people who protest/blog/criticize the MPD at every turn. The “perpetually offended” of Madison who use their small but vocal numbers to dictate agendas has an incredible grip on this City . . .but no one dares to raise a voice lest they be marginalized in the PC world of Madison. I have found a solution that I am willing to share with the alders— do what you believe is right, what your constituents demand, and what’s important NOW)! In any event, I will not be voicing any objection to an independent review, if asked to comment.”
There’s so much to unpack in this paragraph. But let’s make this clear, there is no secret cabal or organization holding the Common Council hostage. This man is speaking from a much larger position of power than any community member he is accusing of holding the Common Council hostage, that he accuses has a “grip” on the city. If myself, YGB, Freedom Inc, and other organizations had such a grip on this city, this police force would currently be under direct supervision of Madison’s black community … as we have called for community control over the police. But that is not the case, now is it? We would have far more of an investment in community-led solutions to addressing our black citizens, and other people of color in this city than we currently have. We would have no homeless populations as we would have dictated to the Common Council to guarantee housing. But none of this is the case.
Koval accusing us of being the “perpetually offended” — a line noted racist and bigot Rush Limbaugh uses — is problematic at best. Using the language of “PC world” and those marginalized by this so called “PC world” is rhetoric straight out of Donald Trump’s handbook. This is classic dog whistle language used to create an image, to create outrage against those fighting back against oppression, against black and non-black people of color. This rhetoric also harks back to Nixon’s “Law and Order” rhetoric, again racially coded language to create a certain image of lawlessness and the loss of power of white Americans.
What makes you use such rhetoric, Koval? Why are you using obvious dog whistle politics? And don’t you dare play the fool as you do and deny that they are. You have a background in journalism and you are highly educated. You know the words you use are powerful … why these specific choices if they are not racially coded language? Why these words if you did not use them to rile up a certain population of this nation? A population that wishes to spew bigoted and racist language without consequence; is that what you want, Koval? Do you want to say some racist and bigoted things without consequence? Would you rather we live in the 1950s and ’60s? As your rhetoric is starting to sound a little Bullish .
In fact, this language is dangerous, Chief Koval. It is dangerous to myself and others on the committee. It is dangerous to YGB and Freedom Inc. and to the Common Council. Trump has created an environment that has empowered racist individuals to violently lash out. This is hardly the language of someone that is truly concerned about the safety of others. You are not a person of color, Koval, it is not your life that is put in danger by such rhetoric. It is ours, and I am not taking from your playbook and being hyperbolic here.
“When MPD has earned valid criticism(s), I will acknowledge the mistakes made and own the responsibility that comes with being the chief. I make mistakes and we have officers and civilians who make mistakes … and people are held accountable. Accountability comes in a variety of forums: policy changes, changes in training or remedial training, internal affairs, the PFC, civil law suits, the media, the Department of Justice, and public opinion.”
Well, what is valid criticism, sir?
And when will people be held accountable? As we know, there is something called the Blue Line, the police’s own no snitching policies. Funny how they tell others to snitch, but don’t when they see something that another officer is doing wrong. Also, there is very little trust in the apparatus that actually attempt to hold officers accountable, as they get just as much pressure from police unions that are hostile to change. As they are part of the same law enforcement apparatus that produced you. How can we trust them … oh, and this community ad-hoc committee is accountability of public opinion. So when, where, and how will be people held accountable?
“Never mind the fact that this Department has met and exceeded the majority of those recommendations offered to local agencies by the guidelines enunciated by President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.”
This was not an official review, Chief Koval. Please do not act like it was one. This is you and your own opinion of the Madison police force, not one conducted by any official entity. Don’t use language to make it sound like anything else.
“Never mind the fact that the MPD has no sustained civil rights violations with the U.S. Department of Justice”
New York City stopped and frisked more black people than there were black people living in the city and was not investigated. Any police department that was investigated by the DOJ had long-running issues long before the investigation, issues that could have been resolved if they did a review, but people such as yourself were against it. So this is any kind of standard of judgement.
But more importantly, you list things you’re not, but conveniently ignore what you are. What you are, are currently being investigated by the ACLU for infractions of the Fair Housing Act. Seems like you forgot to mention that when talking about your “model” police department. And these violations directly impact homelessness in Madison and crime rates in Madison; by helping to evict tenants in an illegal way you are increasing these stats. This is your police department; what else are you hiding, Koval?
Now let’s get to where he really goes off the rails.
“To the Common Council: You are being watched. And be on notice: this is a pre-emptive first strike from me to you… I am going to push back hard when MPD is constantly used as a political punching bag and you are nowhere to be found.”
Well, first off, you said previously that MPD could be held accountable by public opinion, and we are holding the MPD accountable. But here’s the thing: you are in a position of power, backed by a police union, using your power to bully and threaten publicly elected officials. Publicly elected officials listening to the communities most marginalized and oppressed by your police force – communities you aren’t listening to.
A police chief should not use racist dog whistle politics to create an image of a city under siege. As black people, our lives are under siege by your police. And a police chief should under no circumstances use their position of power to threaten or bully publicly elected representatives to do their bidding. The language also threatens the well-being of my body, of those on the committees, of our allies, of organizations working against oppression, and of the Common Council. The use of your dog whistles, in our current political state, could empower those that fear us to violently lash out against us.
But the bottom line is, Chief Koval, if you’re convinced your department will pass with flying colors, what are you so scared of?
I say you doth protest too much…
So, let’s this be my official call for your resignation, Michael C. Koval. You have shown yourself to be a bully and racist who is not fit to be chief of Madison’s police department.
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