April 24, 2015
On Monday, May 11, the Communities United organization will host a discussion panel on community policing and community control over policing.
Morathi Adams, co-founder of YGB and Freedom, Inc. and David Couper, former chief of the Madison Police Department and 30 year police veteran will lead a conversation on policing tactics in Madison, the climate of policing in Madison and Dane County and review of community roles.
Couper gained national attention for his book Arrested Development and for his continued work towards the improvement of police relationships with Black communities nationwide. He was one of the first officers to promote the idea of neighborhood policing while working as chief of the MPD. From him, the idea of community policing first developed in the area.
“Police are not meant to be lawyers but are guardians which operate under your legitimate authority,” said Couper.
According to Couper’s blog, community-style policing is intended to focus on citizen’s problems rather than police problems, on quality of life over statistics and numbers, and compassion over distance.
“When you talk to people of color about their contact with police, you can see that we have a crisis in our nation,” he said. “Unless police can reach out to the black community with respect, they’re not going to be trusted.”
In working to solve the increasingly tense relationship between law enforcement and the Black community, he emphasizes the need for the reestablishment of a community-oriented policing method where officers learn to see all community members the same, regardless of race, financial means or other factors.
“Police are not meant to be lawyers but are guardians which operate under your legitimate authority,” he said. “We allow them to police us because they’re willing to listen to us and always look out for our best interests.”
Brandi Grayson, a leader with the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition in Madison, is hopeful this discussion will solidify the need to seek radical change in the area’s policing system, encourage the review of police policy, set priorities for the police department and establish a need for a system where the community has more power.
She sees today’s traditional policing system as broken. “We need to consider radical change within our own system,” she said. “We need to have the courage to move towards something that models the needs of communities and not traditional policing.”
In light of continued tension due to the death of Tony Robinson at the hands of police in March, both Couper and Grayson see an urgent need for change.
On Couper’s blog, he writes: "Now is the time for a national apology from our nation’s police. I have already made mine. Police must understand that the act of apology and seeking forgiveness is the only way forward. Their apology will begin to free us all.”
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story misstated the host of the event as the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition. Communities United, which is a coalition of groups and individuals working on a city and county-wide basis to advance civil rights and social justice, is the host of the event. The above story has been corrected to address this error.
The discussion will be held at the Urban League of Greater Madison office from 12 – 1:30 p.m. on May 11. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit the Communities United Meeting Event Facebook page.