January 16, 2015
The Young, Gifted and Black Coalition (YGB) recently sent a list of requests to Madison police chief, Mike Koval. Among the demands was the release of 350 African American prisoners incarcerated for “crimes of poverty”. In addition, the organization asked that the Koval make efforts to decrease by 50 percent racial inequality in regards to arrest rates by the end of 2015.
Likely the most controversial demand YGB made, however, was that Koval keep his force from creating poor public-police relations by “policing” Madison neighborhoods unnecessarily.
“I have used my office as a bully pulpit in urging the legislature to address issues of racial disparity as a priority…”
According to a Jan. 13 report in The Capital Times, the coalition would prefer that communities keep there own citizens in check, rather than being watched over by an unyielding police presence.
“No policing. Our ultimate goal is to be able to hold our own communities accountable and expel what we consider an occupying force in our neighborhoods,” reads the letter by YGB.
Koval’s response – in the form of a letter he posted on his own blog – was less than obligatory.
“MPD is not going to ‘reduce’ our contacts with our neighborhood constituents — in fact, we are going to 'increase' them!" Koval wrote in the letter.
He did coincide with some of YGB’s points, however. Koval expressed agreement that racial disparities in regards to incarceration were, in fact, a major issue for Madison.
“I have used my office as a bully pulpit in urging the legislature to address issues of racial disparity as a priority,” wrote Koval. He followed by writing a list of improvements he’d like to see made in regards to resources for youth, alternatives to incarceration for possessory drug charges, and other ways to decrease disproportionate African American incarceration.
The police chief even wants to see that 17-year-old offenders not be tried for adult criminal charges.
Nonetheless, Koval made it clear that he has no intention of allowing the police department to accept responsibility for some of the issues YGB outlined in its letter, nor does he plan to taper down MPD’s presence in Madison neighborhoods.
“What I find most objectionable in your letter to me was the demand that MPD have no "interaction" with "our own communities." This is absolutely untenable to me.”
To Koval, MPD plays the role of “guardians”, which requires that offices be out in local neighborhoods, forging relationships with community members and ensuring trust. So, asking his officers to fall back isn’t quite an option.