Tag Archives: chief

Urging censure of Madison police chief

As stated in our petition, I have observed Madison Police Chief Michael Koval assume and carry out this important position of public leadership and trust.  I write to urge official censure of him and the filing of a complaint against him with the Madison Police and Fire Commission.

From the beginning, Koval has demonstrated an unwillingness and inability to listen.

Many of us have attended community meetings and forums, and found that Koval uses these as his personal stage. He is verbose, arrogant and disrespectful.

Although citizens are able to get in a few questions, for the most part Koval dominates every conversation and leaves no doubt of his “my way or the highway” approach to leadership.

In one instance early on in his tenure as chief, he screamed at a community member for presenting statistics and was then brought to tears citing “passion” as the culprit, but with no intention of addressing that culprit. He apparently does not know how to listen or deal rationally with unpopular feedback.

In a multi-institutional and multi-constituency setting, a leader can only be good if he or she is a skilled and compassionate communicator — adept at presenting a position, listening to others, negotiating compromises and nurturing relationships that will facilitate those compromises. Chief Koval has a serious problem with anger and with disrespect for the political process. Like many people these days, he seems to view politics with disdain, as something beneath him.  In fact, the political process is the mechanism with which democracy operates.

These attitudes were on full display in the blog he posted June 5.  He demonstrates blatant disrespect and insubordination for the Madison Common Council, including his threat that “You are being watched.  And be on notice:  this is a pre-emptive first strike from me to you.” (this from the person who controls an armed police force); contempt for Madison’s citizenry (“PC Madison”); and uses terms coined by Rush Limbaugh to describe citizens who raise questions and concerns about the conduct of MPD (the “perpetually offended”).   

Appallingly, his behavior at the June 9 Madison Common Council meeting topped even this. His blatant disrespect, erratic physical behavior and out of hand dismissals of the concerns of our elected officials, his table pounding, petulant pacing about, and outright mockery of the few non-white alders in the room bespeaks a man who believes his own department’s policy governing the professional behavior of Madison police officers is beneath him.

This is inexcusably bad leadership and management, and rather than know this, he instead boasts about these serious transgressions.  He is setting the worst example for the rank and file.  This is not what public service, and leadership of a public institution, should look like.

Alarmingly, earlier this summer we witnessed the beat-down of 18 year old Genele Laird, a slight, African-American girl who, from the video capture of the event, was not obviously resisting the officer on the scene when a much larger white officer charged her and brought her to the ground with violent knee strikes and a taser.  How much of what he felt empowered to do was informed by the attitudes expressed or training received from Chief Koval?  Is this really the use of force standard that we want for our city? I hope not.

The chief of the Madison Police Department is a public employee and public servant.  He is not an emperor or dictator.  Insofar as he shares his disgust with the political process with MPD officers — as he has — he is dangerous. He is widening the “Us vs. Them” gap when one of his first objectives as a chief should be to narrow it. Because he has postured as champion of police, rather than chief of police, many officers will see him as their champion and any effort on the part of the city to reign Koval in or run him out may result in serious problems with the department.  These will be problems of his making.

Alarm over Koval’s apparent anger, disrespect and outright contempt, is spreading in our community.  A public employee and public official who displays the kind of contempt for elected officials and citizens should be fired.  However, I call on you, the only elected people in our city with the power to directly censure Madison’s chief of police, to do so for Koval’s repeated, culturally supported displays of insubordination, disrespect, and contempt for citizens and elected officials.  I call on you to file a formal complaint against him with the Madison Police and Fire Commission seeking to have him removed as chief for the many violations of his own department’s policy as well as for the direct insubordination of the Common Council.

I implore you to get educated on the true scope and extent of the powers you have to affect change within the police department in the form of lawful orders which the department is, in fact, compelled to obey.  Finally, next time a chief is selected for this city, do everything you can to guarantee we do not get “more of the same.”

Amelia Royko Maurer lives in Madison.

On the Web

Progressive Dane of Dane County is circulating a petition that urges the Madison Common Council to pursue filing censure and a complaint with the Police and Fire Commission against Police Chief Koval. The petition is at https://www.change.org/p/madison-city-council-file-complaint-against-chief-koval-with-pfc

Wisconsin corrections chief resigns amid youth prison investigation

Wisconsin Department of Corrections Secretary Ed Wall has resigned amid an investigation into allegations of abuse at the state’s youth prison, the governor’s office said as news emerged that the FBI had taken over the inquiry there.

Gov. Scott Walker’s staff says Wall submitted his letter of resignation Feb. 5.

He will be replaced by Jon Litscher, who served as the corrections secretary more than a decade ago.

The announcement follows the revelation that a judge sent a letter four years ago warning the governor of possible criminal conduct at the Lincoln Hills School in Irma. Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick has said the governor never saw the note and that it had been referred to the Corrections Department.

The state Department of Justice opened an investigation last year into allegations ranging from sexual assault to misconduct in public office.

“The FBI has transitioned from assisting in the investigation to leading the investigation,” FBI spokesman Leonard Peace said Friday. He said he couldn’t comment on the reason for the switch, since it was an ongoing federal matter.

Litscher has most recently worked as a school superintended in Cambria. He ran the Corrections Department from 1999-2003.

Wall said in his letter of resignation that “the time has come to turn the page for the Department of Corrections and step aside to allow a new person with fresh perspectives to lead the agency forward.” The letter makes no mention of the Lincoln Hills probe.

ACLU to Milwaukee Common Council | Regarding fire and police commission nominees

The following is a letter sent from ACLU of Wisconsin executive director Chris Ahmuty to Terry Witkowski, chairman of the Milwaukee Common Council Public Safety Committee.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin seeks to defend the civil liberties and civil rights of all Wisconsin residents.  Advocating for police accountability has been a priority of our organization for many years.  The ACLU of Wisconsin believes that the City of Milwaukee Board of Fire and Police Commissioners has important duties including oversight of the departments to ensure adherence to the rule of law and the provision of unbiased professional public safety service in every neighborhood. 

Mayor Tom Barrett has nominated Dr. Fred Crouther to the Milwaukee Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.  If confirmed, he would replace Commissioner Paoi Lor bringing the total number of sitting commissioners to seven until July, 2015 when Commissioner Morgan’s term expires.  State law allows the Mayor to appoint an additional two commissioners, which his office has indicated he will do after the hiring of an executive director. 

You and your colleagues on the Public Safety Committee are scheduled to review the Mayor’s nomination tomorrow, March 19, 2015. Regardless of the nominee the ACLU of Wisconsin believes that there are important criteria to guide the confirmation process. 

First, do council members have adequate information about the issues confronting the Board to determine the suitability of any nominee?  Over the last several years critical incidents, including deaths in custody, and policing strategies, including over 200,000 officer initiated stops a year have contributed to tension between some members of the community and the MPD.   Can the FPC Board’s oversight function help enhance police-community relations?  To what extent must the Board be independent from political pressure to enhance police-community relations?  Can board members ask the chiefs tough questions until they get satisfactory answers?  How often does a nominee question authority?

Second, has the confirmation process been open so that the public as well as council members are able to evaluate the suitability of any nominee?  Since the appointment of Commissioner Ann Wilson, the ACLU of Wisconsin among other community groups, has argued that well publicized listening sessions should be held at convenient locations and that the public be allowed to ask the nominee relevant questions.  Have there been adequate opportunities for public input?  If not, will confidence in the nominee suffer?   Hopefully tomorrow’s committee hearing will provide another opportunity.

Third, has the confirmation process been transparent for any nominee?  Has a background check been completed on the nominee?  Has he/she been asked about potential conflicts of interest?  Has the nominee been asked to serve a complete term?  Has he/she agreed to do so?

The ACLU of Wisconsin takes no position on the nomination of Dr. Crouther as a matter of policy.  I appreciate your consideration of some of the criteria suggested above. 

Christopher Ahmuty is the executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin.

Madison Mayor Soglin statement on death of Tony Robinson

At the scene of the shooting, I said this is a tragedy beyond description. Today, we begin what will be a difficult period for our city. Madisonians honor and respect the young life of Anthony Robinson. I say this without knowledge of the indispensible facts of what happened Friday night but out of respect for the dignity of every person.

His mother and father, siblings, relatives and friends lost a loved one. His parents are living their worst nightmare. Our hearts, our thoughts go out to the family and friends who are grieving.

Our community has many questions, questions that I share. There will be answers. There is a new state law that mandates an independent investigation into officer involved shootings. Investigators from the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation were on the scene immediately last night. We must give them time to do their job.

I met members of the family and members of the community who were at the scene last night and heard their concerns. I talked to Chief Koval and discussed those concerns, while offering support for our police officers and the difficult public service they perform every day. The Madison Police Department has a well-earned reputation as one of the finest departments in the Country.

We all deserve to know the facts in this case. Tony Robinson’s family deserves that, our community deserves that, and the Madison Police deserve that. When the answers come, we will be open and transparent in communicating them.

Our police officers serve us with respect, valor and dignity, a few hour earlier they were faced with hostile gunfire and managed to end that confrontation safely,

On this, the anniversary of the first March on Selma, let us remember the words of Dr. King 50 years ago: “The road ahead is not altogether a smooth one. There are no broad highways that lead us easily and inevitably to quick solutions. But we must keep going.”

The City of Madison, our police officers, our community, and I must and will keep moving forward with compassion, with understanding, with a commitment to facing the facts, finding the truth, and making necessary changes to ensure this great City is always more equitable and just.