Home Opinion Michael Johnson: Chief Barnes deserves support in his inaugural MPD Budget

Michael Johnson: Chief Barnes deserves support in his inaugural MPD Budget

Shon Barnes. Photo by Robert Chappell.

With the recent incidents happening in our city, we have a new chief of police that could be a game-changer if given the opportunity and resources to do so.

Chief Barnes is a proven reformer, educator, and law enforcement expert who has been recognized by the National Institute of Justice as a Law Enforcement Advancing Data and Science (LEADS) Scholar. In his past practices, he has used data and science to help reduce crime. He also uses this approach to improve community and police relations. I recently learned that the Madison Police department has 4 LEADS Scholars that includes the Chief. This is the largest number of any police department in the nation.

Our new chief also has experience working with civilian oversight boards and brings significant experience to his new position. Chief Barnes is a member of the National Police Foundation’s Council on Police Reform and Race and is highly respected for his law enforcement work. I recently met with Chief Barnes, and he convinced me that he has a vision for community policing that is reflective of his budget priorities.

His current budget proposal includes:

  1. Adding an additional staff member to Professional Standards and Internal Affairs to work with the new Intendent Monitor to  expedite the citizen complaint process.
  2. Adding a permanent Police Sergeant to his newly formed Gang and Neighborhood Crime Abatement Team to help address the rise in gun violence.
  3. Creating a new division of police reform and innovation that would execute on the one hundred seventy-seven ad hoc recommendations as well as the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) report.
  4. The Town of Madison will be annexed into the Madison Community in October of 2022 and Chief Barnes has proposed a balanced and equitable blueprint that is designed to keep our community safer without an abundance of over policing.
  5. Creating a Community Engagement Specialist position to improve community and police relations and to help address critical communication and distrust that exist in our community.
  6. His operational strategies include working with the Focused Interruption Coalition, mental health agencies and other community partners and government agencies to alleviate gun violence and provide support to families of those impacted by violent crimes.


In addition, when he first started his assignment, we talked about the creation of a Youth Advisory Board. I watched him execute on that plan as he secured private funding to ensure that the voices of young people are being heard. I’ve also watched him develop his first comprehensive multi-year strategic plan which is important for a leader coming into new executive management role. 

I believe we have an amazing opportunity to support an accomplished leader who is no stranger to successful reform and our city needs Chief Barnes to be successful. It is not enough to select Black executives in these roles and not offer them the full armor of support to help them achieve success for our city including supporting their budget priorities, operational recommendations, and offering moral support, especially early in their tenure.

I support Chief Barnes inaugural plans and hope he garners the support to make our community a safe and livable place for all Madisonians.