Madison Gets First Look at Finalists for Independent Police Comptroller | local government

Madisonians got their first look at the four finalists for the city’s first Independent Police Monitor on Thursday, more than a year after the hiring board began looking and seven months after its first search ended. ended in failure.

The finalists, presented in an online Q&A forum, are:

  • Robert Copley, attorney and public records counsel for the City of Milwaukee.
  • Rodney Saunders Jr., who oversees diversity, equity and inclusion efforts for the state Department of Transportation.
  • John Tate II, Racine alderman and former head of the state parole board.

Joel Winnig, a longtime Madison attorney who ran for the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2011.

The two candidates who live in Madison, Saunders and Winnig, pointed to the positive reputation of the police department.

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“We have one of the best police departments in the country,” Winnig said. “If anything, our police department has some of the same issues that we have across the country, and some that are unique to Wisconsin.”

Winnig said among those problems was overpolicing, saying people with lower incomes often received more, but unwarranted, attention than those with more wealth. Saunders pointed to the large racial disparities in arrests in Madison, with blacks being arrested at rates far above their percentage of the population, and said there was a need for police to engage in “greater collaboration with social and mental health services”.

Copley said police culture is often similar across the country and he criticized the “pattern of adversarial conflict rather than community investigation” when police use force against citizens, which can lead to divisions. He called for greater transparency and community input in such cases.

Tate said that as a resident of Racine he didn’t have a sense of Madison’s police culture, but as a monitor he would engage with community leaders and others to examine “how do we hold police services accountable and how do we ensure that the police have a positive relationship with communities?

All four candidates stressed the importance of engaging with victims of crime, members of historically marginalized communities and young people, especially those who distrust the criminal justice system.

Tate said that “one of the best things government can do…is recognize that the experience (of citizens) is real and that those in government are not this nebulous entity that cannot be touched. “.

Saunders said he believed in victims being believed and worked as a volunteer in local restorative justice efforts. He also said it was important to center “the voices of the oppressed”, including those with mental health issues, racial minorities and members of the gay community. As a mentor to black boys on the North Side, he invited a policeman, in civilian clothes, to talk to the boys about “their rights as civilians.”

Winnig said it was important for the Monitor’s office to have a brand, such as “independence, integrity and transparency”, while Copley said he would run “extensive community listening sessions”. if he was hired.

With the exception of Winnig, none of the candidates had understood or seen a 2019 city ad hoc committee report that made 177 recommendations to police.

Saunders and Tate are black, while Winnig and Copley are white.

No one is applying to oversee the hiring of Madison's first freelance police comptroller

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Since its first meeting in November 2020, the Civilian Police Oversight Board has struggled to recruit candidates and select a finalist for the post of monitor.

Its first recruitment process, launched in July 2021, attracted 30 candidates. Two were named finalists in October, but one dropped out soon after.

In January, the remaining runner-up, current director of the city’s Civil Rights Department’s Equal Opportunity Division, Byron Bishop, also dropped out of the race amid revelations he had discriminated against against a woman he had been having an affair with and violated state licensing requirements at his former business about 16 years ago. The Supervisory Board also voted behind closed doors to cancel the job offer.

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Weeks prior, Eric A. Hill, a white nominee with past military experience who was not named a finalist, filed state and federal complaints alleging that board members’ social media posts suggest that ‘they are biased against candidates like him, although Bishop, who is black, also has military experience.

Hill’s federal complaint, alleging bias due to his military background, was dismissed in April. Hill appealed. His complaint to the state alleged he was discriminated against because of his gender and race and remains open, according to Assistant City Attorney Patricia Lauten.

The Supervisory Board voted later in January 2022 to retain a recruitment firm to help find qualified candidates, but by April no one had applied to take the job.

Last spring, the board re-posted the position and decided to ask all candidates who had applied for the position last year to reapply.

years of work

The establishment of the Board of Directors and Comptrollership in September 2020 was the culmination of years of work by activists to increase police oversight of Madison following a series of fatal police shootings , as well as the report of an independent consultant who made 146 recommendations – including that the city should hire a monitor – but deemed the department “far from being a ‘department in crisis'” whose use of force was “limited in volume and mostly of a minor nature”.

Neither the board nor the monitor has the power to fire or discipline police — tasks reserved under state law to the police and the city’s fire commission, or PFC — but they can conduct independent investigations of Madison police, making referrals to the PFC, preparing an annual report on the city’s police chief, and conducting community outreach activities on policing issues.

The position pays between $104,672 and $141,308. The public has until noon Wednesday to complete a poll of the finalists on the city’s Independent Monitor website, which can be found at

Council chair Keetra Burnette said the four would be interviewed again separately on August 25 behind closed doors, after which the council would deliberate and hopefully select a candidate, also behind closed doors.

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