Madison police chief calls out council for not defending MPD during heated testimony

Council stays quiet during testimony on Tony Robinson officer-involved shooting

After contentious testimony about the Tony Robinson officer-involved shooting at a public hearing, Police Chief Mike Koval sounded off in a strongly-worded letter to alders Wednesday.

The Madison Common Council opened part of Tuesday’s meeting up for public comment, and angry words about Robinson’s death followed.

Koval said he was so concerned about what was said that he felt the need to call out the entire council in a letter.

In the letter sent to all Madison alders Wednesday morning, Koval said the entire council failed by not following hearing rules. He also said council members should have defended his department instead of staying silent during the heated testimony.

“What will happen after this non-indictment will mimic Ferguson,” Young, Gifted and Black Coalition leader Brandi Grayson said at Tuesday’s hearing. “And that, my dear, will be on your hands, and you will no longer be able to scream, ‘We are no longer Ferguson.’ We are the worst city in the nation for black people, and every one of you all should be ashamed for yourself.”

Grayson and others at the hearing directly addressed the chief and mayor Tuesday night with that type of language and allegations about the police department being full of institutional racism and murderers.

“When the facts come out chief, and you know the facts. We know the facts. And when they come out, the city will erupt. This city will f’ing erupt, and there will be blood, and whatever takes place after that will be on your hands and the mayor’s hands,” Grayson said.

Koval said the council should call that out and be publicly defending the department’s record as a whole instead of sitting by silently.

Beyond that, he is worried about the implications of the strong language used Tuesday night.

“That does become more disturbing for me, because that looks like people, who in some sense, who are prepared to riot,” Koval said. “And I hope that’s not the case. I hope those were words that were just expressed out of frustration, exasperation and anger.”

Dane County Boys and Girls Club CEO Michael Johnson said he is determined, along with other black leaders who have embraced the chief’s leadership, not to see rioting in Madison.

“Rioting and looting and tearing up businesses is not what makes up our city, and we can’t allow that to happen,”Johnson said. “So if there are people out there using those types of inflammatory words, we will have conversations. The family has asked that that doesn’t happen, and we need to respect their wishes.”

Council member Lisa Subeck said right now it’s time to listen.

She said while she appreciated the chief’s letter, right now, she does not want to respond. Common Council President Chris Schmidt had no comment Wednesday night.

Grayson was not able to respond to the report, but the YGBC is planning to march to a mayoral debate scheduled for Thursday. Protesters will call for officer Matt Kenny to be fired and criminally charged.