Press Release: City Must Act Swiftly to Address Police Killing

CONTACT: Sue Pastor, Policy Co-Chair; (608) 217-7099, skpastor@sbcglobal.net

3/17/2015

For Immediate Release:

On the day of the first Madison Common Council meeting since the March 6th killing of Tony Terrell Robinson Jr. by a Madison police officer, Progressive Dane extends deep condolences to Tony's family and friends, affirms that "Black Lives Matter", and calls for action on the part of elected officials.

We insist upon a public review of the policies, practices, and procedures of the Madison Police Department, especially regarding the continuum of force and "shoot to kill", the protocol for "exigent" circumstances, and the rights of witnesses. Common Council must immediately create a committee to undertake this review, and that committee must include representatives of communities most significantly impacted by racial disparities and over-policing. The committee must also review the charge of the city's Public Safety Review Committee and recommend needed changes.

Healing and justice demand a thorough-going examination of our present circumstances and a re-alignment of policing with the values of this community. We question the seemingly increasing level of militarization, and the extent to which police are armed. These factors, together with the city and county's shameful racial disparities in arrest and incarceration rates, make people in communities of color profoundly vulnerable to mistreatment at the hands of police and undermine the safety of all.

We expect this public, open review process to include opportunities for all city residents to speak about their experiences with policing. We must acknowledge the harm the targeting of people of color has done to individual lives as well as to the broader community and we must seek to correct these injustices.

The committee should craft recommendations for change that can lead to a democratic public safety model reflecting the community's values. We want to see mental health and substance abuse issues treated as such, not responded to with violence. We want to see culturally responsive principles and trauma-informed care principles implemented, including a reassignment of resources, if necessary. We want the effects of poverty and inequality decriminalized, and appreciate the work of Young, Gifted and Black coalition in calling attention to these issues at the county level. Progressive Dane stands with the coalition in questioning resources for a new jail, and advocating for a shift in resources from criminal justice and criminalization of poverty to public health and addressing inequality.

We also expect the work of former Madison Police Chief David Couper to help guide a vision of "what next." After Tony's funeral, Couper was quoted in the Guardian saying: "The nation's police [have] to stand up and say, 'We've changed whatever's going on because it's not working.' We can't be taking the lives of people who don't have weapons."

The city must spare no effort in protecting our youth and their futures. Progressive Dane calls for continued examination of the impacts of the policies and practices related to punishment and policing in our schools, and full funding of the school district's ongoing efforts to replace discipline with education and social supports.

While no committee is a panacea, this one is an absolutely necessary step if we are to have any faith in the political will of our local government to make sure what happened to Tony Terrell Robinson Jr. never happens again.