City Council: File Complaint Against Chief Koval

unacceptable.jpgWhen is comes to policing issues, the Madison community has been through a significant amount of divisiveness and turmoil again this month.  It  started with the threatening and inflammatory blog by our Chief of Police, Mike Koval.  This was quickly followed by his contentious and disrespectful antics at the council meeting of June 7th.  And when things started to cool down politically, the community was rocked by the shocking video of Madison police officers beating, kicking and tasing a young black woman, Genele Laird.   “Some responses to this inexcusably brutal arrest suggest that the chief has been successful in creating a false dichotomy between concern for police as human beings and necessary criticism of wrongful police behavior,” said Sue Pastor, Progressive Dane Co-Chair.

Progressive Dane joins with the many groups and individuals who have come forward expressing that this is not the police department we expect in the City of Madison, no matter what standards Chief Koval says they are following.  These are not acceptable standards in Madison, WI.  As Representative Chris Taylor said at the press conference on Tuesday, we need to “be the model, not the minimum.”  We expect true community policing, where the community sets the standards.  Pastor said “The chief’s assertion that we already have community policing is not convincing, especially in light of demonstrated lack of understanding or concern as to why black Madisonians would have reason to fear the police. Evidence supports the need for the thorough, independent review approved by Common Council, and at the same time, we must move forward with what can be done now.”


Progressive Dane  joins with the many groups and individuals who have brought forward ideas on how to improve our police and brought progressive policy initiatives to the forefront.  Specifically, we urge members of the Common Council to explore all of the following options:

  • Embrace recommendations in the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing including:

    • Adopt a guardian rather than warrior mindset and use procedural justice as the guiding principle for internal and external policies and practices

    • Adopt True Community Policing practices including civilian oversight mechanisms

    • Ensure the de-escalation is at the forefront and integral to all training, and that we have more than just minimal standards for use of force.

    • Include the community and particularly youth in decision making

    • Include mandatory Crisis Intervention Training for all officers to equip officers to deal with individuals in crisis or living with mental wellness challenges.

    • Promote officer wellness and safety at every level of the organization.

Several specific recommendations that are in line with the 21st Century Policing values include:

  • Community Panel to review use of force incidents

  • Independent investigation of Genele Laird’s arrest

  • Explore what community control over the police could look like

  • Re-acquire the software designed to identify indications of distress among patrol officers and implement policies that support the mental of health of patrol officers.

  • Adopt policies that if police officers are taken to the hospital for an incident, the person arrested is given the same amount of medical attention.

  • Urge the Public Safety Review committee to take a more active role in these issues, including listening sessions to collect feedback from the community.


Despite all of these good ideas in our community and an urgent call for action from so many, we know that without a significant change in leadership, not much will be different.  We expect more from OUR police department, starting at the top.  We have grave concerns about Chief Koval’s leadership abilities and fear that we have not seen the last of his bullying and belligerent tactics.   As former Chief Couper said at the press conference on Tuesday, “It is never, never appropriate for the Chief to be angry, sarcastic or bullying.  Period.”  He followed it up with the question “Does the chief's public emotional display on his blog and at the June 6 [sic] Council meeting send a bad signal to some of his officers?  If the chief doesn’t have to be emotionally controlled and sensitive to others, maybe they don’t either.”   


Furthermore, we are concerned about the Chief’s lack of awareness of serious racial implications of his actions.  Chief Koval's response to Alder Samba Baldeh's comments at Common Council on June 7 suggest that he has no idea why black Madisonians would fear the police even with the shameful racial disparities in arrest and incarceration in this community.  


We’re calling on the City Council to send a strong message to the chief and his officers that this type of behavior is not appropriate and we expect more from our Madison Police Department.  We request that since they have standing with the Police and Fire Commission due to actions that directly affected them, that they file a complaint or “statement of charges” for the threats and bullying in the blog post of June 5th and the actions and statements at the June 7th council meeting.  We believe that in his behaviors, Chief Koval has violated the Madison Police Department Code of Conduct, several Administrative Procedure Memorandums from the Mayor’s office and various Police Department Standard Operating Procedures, policies and procedures set out by the City of Madison.  


We elected Alders to the City Council to be our voices in local government.  It can be a difficult and grueling (second) job, but we need them to step up, once again, and do this for the safety of our community.  When a major department head of a major department in our city acts the way Chief Koval did, it becomes a community problem.  When that department head is the Chief of Police, it's a much bigger problem given the power they have in this community.  Disrespect to our local elected officials is disrespect for the community at large.  And Chief Koval is sending a dangerous message to the police officers in his department that this disrespect is acceptable.  We need our alders to send a very strong message that this is not acceptable behavior.



The petition reads as follows:


We, the undersigned, respectfully request that members of the Common Council file a "statement of charges" or complaint with the Police and Fire Commission against Madison Police Chief Mike Koval. We were appalled at Chief Koval's actions and statements in his blog of June 5th and at the June 7th Common Council meeting.  He appears to have violated multiple provisions in theCode of Conduct, Administrative Procedure Memorandumsand other city policies.  We are unable to file such a complaint due to lack of "standing" before the Police and Fire Commission, however you were directly impacted by his actions.  We ask that you, as our elected representatives and voice in local government, file a statement of charges as impacted individuals on behalf of our entire community.    We expect that our elected officials and the public are treated with dignity and respect from major department managers and leaders within our city.  It is especially imperative with the police department that wields a great amount of power in our community.   Madison deserves better.

The petition can be signed electronically here ( , and will be circulated for written signatures.  For those who want to do more, join this facebook event ( and read details there.