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Chief’s Report: Arrests, Use of Force Down in 2018; Still Disproportionately Affect Black Residents


Madison Police Chief Mike Koval has been releasing his daily blog for a number of years. The blog, which is derived from police reports that come in throughout the day, usually highlights the diverse calls that officers respond to within a 24 hour period. Chief Koval also reveals statistics important to the public such as how many car thefts are taking place and what residents can do about them. Things like how many shootings have happened over the course of a month or year. Or even fun tidbits like the Chief secretly hoping for a blizzard on Saturday to thwart the Mifflin Street Block Party.

This week the Chief released the first ever full police accountability report. It was a compilation of all of those types of statistics and disclosures about the work of officers around the city. Much of the information has been posted in other places and all of it has always been available on the MPD website.

But the full accountability report perhaps signaled a new level of transparency.

“This is just an additional effort to be transparent with the public, providing information about some of the most critical aspects of police work,” Assistant Chief of Police Vic Wahl told Madison365. “Much of this information we already release to the public, but doing it in this manner we hope will make it more accessible.”

Use of force has been a controversial and relevant topic for the community around Madison for years, particularly following the shooting of Tony Robinson as well as subsequent incidents like the violent arrest of teenager Genele Laird.

The statistics on use of force was one of the highlights of the police accountability report. The number of recordable incidents that required force were down in 2018 from 2017, as were the overall number of arrests.

In 2017, there were 8,228 arrests recorded. Of those, 231 were incidents in which there was a use of force. African Americans were the recipients of force in 107 of the 231 incidents, or about 46 percent, while Caucasians were the recipients of use of force in 117 of the 231 incidents, or about 50 percent.

In 2018, there were 8,005 arrests and 181 use of force incidents. Force was used on African Americans in 88 of those 181 incidents and on Caucasians in 87 of the incidents — both about 48 percent. African Americans also made up 3,817 of the total arrests — 47 percent — while whites made up 3,855 of the arrests — about 48 percent.

The population of Madison is 79 percent white and about seven percent African American.

Almost 77 percent of the police officers using force were white. The MPD is approximately 80 percent  white and 20 percent minority. Eight and a half percent of use of force was by an African American officer.

“You absolutely cannot draw any conclusions about whether officers are more or less likely to use force based on their race or gender, based on this data,” Wahl told Madison365 in an email on Wednesday.  “We would need to look at additional data (arrests, stops, citizen contacts) by officers and work from there. Simply looking at the race/gender of officers using force and then comparing it to the proportion of the agency doesn’t tell us anything about what ranks or assignments those individuals have, what shift they work, how many arrests/stops/etc. they make, nor the type of incidents they are responding to,etc.”

The Chief’s blog, along with reports like this, are meant to create opportunities for more community dialogue and continued transparency from the department.
The full report can be seen at https://www.cityofmadison.com/police/chief/blog/documents/AccountabilityRpt2018.pdf