Madison Police Chief Mike Koval has resigned, effective Monday, September 30.
In a blog post Sunday, Koval said Assistant Chief Vic Wahl would serve as Interim Chief until the Police and Fire Commission (PFC) conducts a hiring process. Koval does not have the authority to name an interim chief; in a statement Sunday afternoon, the PFC said it would likely designate an interim chief at its Oct. 14 meeting.
It is not clear what prompted Koval’s resignation.
In a statement, Mayor Satya Rhodes Conway said Koval just informed her this morning that today would be his last day.
“I want thank Chief Koval for his decades of service and dedication to the Madison Police Department. In his long career, he has served in a wide number of roles including, field training officer, field training supervisor, SWAT hostage negotiator, critical response team supervisor, primary legal instructor, sergeant, and chief,” she wrote in the statement. “I have spoken to the head of the Police and Fire Commission and will be working with the PFC to organize the search for a new Chief of Police, and will be urging them to conduct a process in which members of the department and members of the community have significant input into the kind of police chief they wish to lead the Madison Police Department into the future.”
The PFC echoed that sentiment.
“We thank (Koval) for his years of dedicated service to the Madison community, a successful concluding chapter to his long and distinguished professional career of public service,” they wrote in a statement. “We extend our best wishes to him in the future.”
Common Council President Shiva Bidar said she “learned of his retirement as of tomorrow at the same time as the res of the city, by reading his blog.”
Koval’s tenure has been tumultuous at times, including the fatal shooting of Tony Robinson by a Madison Police officer that resulted in a $3.35 million settlement between the city and Robinson’s family. Other high-profile incidents under Koval’s watch have eroded trust between the department and communities of color, including the violent arrest of Genele Laird in 2016 and the June 3 beating of a juvenile Black male who was experiencing a mental health crisis, which has prompted a $2.8 million lawsuit against the City.
At the same time, the department has also been lauded as a national model for the way it interacts and works with undocumented immigrants.
Koval has clashed with elected alders and members of an ad-hoc committee convened to examine police policies following the Robinson shooting. He has often vociferously opposed efforts to oversee or reform police practice.
“To constituents who have lent their support and encouragement to the body of good works that our police are performing on a daily basis–I am eternally grateful; you will never know how important your efforts have meant to the morale of our Department,” he wrote. “To the ‘haters,’ thanks to you as well—for through your unrelenting, unforgiving, desire to make the police the brunt of all of your scorn—I drew strength from your pervasive and persistent bullying. I have made a career of fighting for the underdog and I was able to hang on much longer than I had originally planned.”
Koval said he regretted that his efforts to increase the size of the police force fails.
“I have tried—using staffing studies, workload analysis, galvanizing grass roots campaigns (it worked for getting Midtown operational but not for getting enough cops), tried educating Council(s)/Mayor’s, and appealed to the media to focus a light on the issue. But I didn’t get it done,” he wrote.
He also appealed to the community to trust the department in his absence.
“To the community, MPD is trying, with a sense of urgency and purpose, to earn your trust and to work cooperatively in addressing the issues of our day,” he wrote. “I am sorry if I said or did anything which caused you to question these motives or the authentic desires of MPD to be relational partners in moving forward. Blame me for whatever missteps or disappointments you may have but please give this Department and its dedicated employees the benefit of the doubt, and let them impress you with their selfless desire to better serve you!”
It is not clear whether or when Koval informed the Police and Fire Commission or Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway of the decision.
Rhodes-Conway declined to comment Sunday, saying she would issue a statement later in the day.
In a text message to Madison365, PFC member Nia Trammel said she did not receive any notice that Koval intended to resign, but other members or the PFC’s legal counsel may have.
“I do believe that I can speak for the entire commission in wishing Chief Koval the best in his retirement and thanking him for his years of service to the Madison Police Department,” Trammel said.
This is a breaking story and will be updated. This article has been updated to include statements from Mayor Rhodes-Conway, the PFC and Common Council President Shiva Bidar.