Police Chief Chastises the Council

Posted March 18th, 2015 @ 11:58 AM by

Wow. I’m not sure what to say. More tomorrow. This is a glimpse into the bullying tactics of the police department with the elected officials.

From: Koval, Michael
Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2015 8:42 AM
To: All Alders
Subject: Feedback From Chief Koval


As the City has been through a lot over the past l0 days, an uneasy peace has settled in until we await the next seminal decision from the District Attorney’s Office. The tension on the streets is palpable and my officers are doing the best they can to remain pro-active and relational. Not an easy task given the various veiled and stark threats to police officers that have been made through various social media networks and on the streets. I have challenged my officers to stay true to our values, adhere to our training in situational awareness, and to resist the urge to adopt a “bunker” mindset. The women and men of MPD have done more than their share of risk taking for this community and it is high time you did yours!

In the course of a few days (from March 13-last night’s Common Council meeting), I have seen you muster to create a letter to the family of Tony Robinson as well as to hastily convene a public “hearing” for those who want to express their views. While the letter of condolences to the family of Tony Robinson was entirely appropriate (I did the same thing), there was no mention of support—either in that letter or in any corresponding letter which could have been circulated at the same time—acknowledging the exceptional steps taken by women and men of MPD in doing their part to maintain public safety while facilitating robust dissent. Last night, I sat patiently listening to people accusing MPD of everything from being sanctioned murderers to racists. Given the nature of the proceedings, I was left with no recourse to respond to any of these diatribes, falsehoods and shock value missives. One of my responsibilities is to defend those valued employees—sworn and non-sworn—that take pride in providing a premium service to the citizens and guests of our City. People can attack me all they want—I’m old and what service time I have left is not going to be deterred by fringe elements who foist themselves upon me with righteous indignation. But I have a duty to speak up when the good people who work for me have to contend with unchecked, unilateral attacks on them and the legacy of the MPD . . .and I failed them by not being able to go to bat for them under the constraints of the hearing protocols last night. In short, your collective silence is DEAFENING and that is why I chose to write to you today. Don’t think that I haven’t noticed or that my employees haven’t noticed—we have!

It is unacceptable for elected officials to remain silent while an institution like the MPD is sullied with drive-by disrespect. The practice of whispering in my ear in the hallways of the CCB, sending me a text, or giving me a phone call saying “Stay the course, Chief. We support you” won’t hack it anymore. You must be more public and more intentional about support for the MPD and our employees. Of course, if you don’t feel that way, stand down as we only want those who believe in the authenticity of our work to speak up. But at the end of the day, I am not an elected official who worries about my polling numbers—when this sort of reticence surfaces, there will be pushback from me.

While there were many various topics raised last night, the one substantive item that raised questions was the willingness to open up the MPD Policies and Procedures Manual for independent review. Have at it. Those substantive elements being discussed last night on the use of force are the same template used throughout the State of Wisconsin. At the outset, it should be noted that the overwhelming number of cases we respond to our resolved through presence and dialogue. Period. Given the ever-increasing violent nature of our society, we train diligently on the use of force. A plethora of time is given to non-lethal alternatives and tools. Deadly force training include countless reps of disengagement, movement, distance, and cover. Furthermore, we incorporate numerous training exercises where the outcome is predicated on “no shoot” outcomes. Graham v. Connor is the U.S. Supreme Court case that dictates what constitutes whether police used excessive force (the test is an objective one, that of “objective reasonableness.”). While we are always looking to adopt best practices in how use of force outcomes can be improved, we will not be departing from the same standards that govern police use of force across this state (and country). By the way, MPD has never had a “shoot to kill” mantra. . .

I would be happy to have the Public Safety Review Committee (PSRC) examine all of our policies to check for concerns that may lead to unintended consequences. Or, if there is a different entity that you would like to have review responsibilities, that would be fine with me as well.

I close with this. Police and citizens alike are expected to conform to rules. The decorum that I witnessed last night where certain people were allowed to trammel those rules with a gentle admonishment to respect the rights and minutes of others was laughable. My suggestion is that the rules of order should apply to everyone or those in non-compliance should incur the consequences. The hearing became a kangaroo court and while you don’t care what civics looks like on cable television, I do.


Michael C. Koval, Chief of Police
Madison Police Department
211 S. Carroll Street
Madison, Wisconsin 53703

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