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Madison Alders: File Complaint Against Chief Koval with the Police and Fire Commission!

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As Madison community members, we all value playing fair and by the rules. This is one of the reasons our City has become respected for being such a great place to live. When we respect each other, we can accomplish great things for our community. But when a City leader acts with disrespect, doesn't play fair, and breaks all the rules, it can tear our community apart.

During his time as Chief of the Madison Police Department, Mike Koval has repeatedly violated the Madison Police Department Code of Conduct and other Madison Police Department rules, as well as City of Madison rules (policies and ordinances) that must be obeyed by all city employees.

1. He has repeatedly violated rules against bullying, disrespectful, threatening, or intimidating behavior. Madison policy for city employees absolutely prohibits “abusive, …, bullying, or other threatening or intimidating behavior”. The Madison Police Department Code of Conduct mandates that officers must on all occasions be “courteous and respectful”.

2. He has repeatedly violated rules against making false or misleading public statements. Two examples: In an apparent attempt to sway public opinion, he untruthfully claimed that at the City-County Building protest after the shooting of Tony Robinson, “Comments such as ‘kill the cops’ and ‘we have guns too’ were yelled frequently”. Full video of the protest (and all witness accounts) shows this statement to be blatantly false. Likewise, he has provided the public with false statistics on the rate of use of force by MPD officers.

3. He has violated rules against political involvement. Policy notes “police should not use their authority or the indicia of office, such as the uniform or title, for this purpose because of its inherently coercive nature.”

4. He has violated City of Madison and Madison Police Department rules against insubordination.

5. And he has violated Madison Police Department Code of Conduct rules that explicitly prohibit any public criticism of specific orders. Under state statute, in the chain of command, the Common Council stands above the police chief, and he must obey all their lawful orders.

The Chief has set up a false dichotomy between concern for the well-being of police officers as human beings, and any criticism whatsoever of police conduct. He has encouraged an atmosphere in which people can justify the brutal treatment of a young black woman, Genele Laird, because to do otherwise is "anti-police".

From the beginning, Chief Koval has demonstrated an inability to listen, displaying a "my way or the highway" approach to leadership. In one instance early on in his tenure as Chief, he screamed at a community member who politely asked a question, then cited “passion” as the culprit for his inappropriate behavior, but with no intention of addressing that culprit. This has been an ongoing pattern. His threatening and inflammatory blog post and behavior with the Common Council this past month was only the most recent such event. 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 bigoted mockery of the few non-white alders in the room reveals a man who believes his own departmental policy and Code of Conduct as well as the city rules governing the professional behavior of Madison Police Officers are beneath him.

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 [it was actually the 7th] 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?”

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. 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.

We, the undersigned, respectfully request that members of the Common Council file a complaint with the Police and Fire Commission against Madison Police Chief Mike Koval and that the Common Council censure him for his actions. Regarding Chief Koval's actions and statements in his blog of June 5th and at the June 7th Common Council meeting, we are unable to file a complaint due to lack of "standing" before the Police and Fire Commission. However, you, as alders, were directly impacted by his actions. We ask that you, as our elected representatives and voice in local government, file a complaint as impacted individuals on behalf of our entire community. We expect our elected officials and the public to be treated with dignity and respect from department managers and leaders within our city. For our community to function, it is important that all be held accountable – that no-one is above the law.

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