As a result of the June 2 incident in Monona involving Keonte Furdge and Monona Police Department, I reached out to Legal Action of Wisconsin (LAW). The reason I did this was because they could provide a review of our police policies free of charge to the City. One of LAW's attorneys lives in Monona so the community connection is also there which I felt was important. Our police policies (or general orders) had not been updated since 2012. LAW committed a team to research other police policies and provided a thorough overview of gaps and needed updates. For instance, mental health was not mentioned in our existing policies. A lot has changed since 2012.
I realize that our small police department is resource strapped and having support from a team of attorneys and professionals that serve the public with legal issues could be beneficial as we begin to review and rewrite Monona PD general orders. Although LAW's expertise is not specifically in developing police policies, they are well versed in the legal aspects of law enforcement and how it impacts many of their clients.
I was elected to represent all of the residents of Monona and work in conjunction with our city staff to make our City the best it can be. I believe in empowering staff and giving them the tools to do their job to the best of their ability. Our police officers "wear many hats" and sometimes are provided with little training to make the best decisions for the safety of the public and for their own safety.
Our staff can only be as strong as the policies that guide their work. Creating and rewriting policies can be a time consuming effort and, as your Alder, I'm committed to doing research and assisting our staff so they can do the work they've been hired to do. This is one of the key roles of Alders. As our police department is under a microscope, I felt it was my duty to connect with my resource network to save the City money and assist our police department at the same time.
LAW provided an overview of some of our policies and made recommended changes which you can view below. The specific policies reviewed included: Use of Deadly Force Policy, Monona's Policy on Racial Profiling, the Policy on Stop and Frisk, and Monona's Hiring and Training Policies.
A DEEPER DIVE & REFORM PROPOSALS
After the overview above was provided to the Police Department and the Public Safety Commission (PSC), LAW conducted a deeper dive into policies and made suggestions for potential reform. LAW determined that there are other aspects of police funding and policies that will be vital for the City of Monona to consider if it truly intends to reduce police violence and improve community-police relations. For example, MPD’s other policies provide for the use of race, ethnicity, national original, appearance or demeanor to justify arrests and stops.
In response to my invitation, LAW identified suggestions for modifying MPD’s “Use of Force” and “Use of Non-Lethal Weapons” policies. LAW's suggestions borrow from police policies used in Camden, NJ and Philadelphia, PA which are both clear and comprehensive. If Monona were to take LAW’s suggestions into consideration, LAW's clients would benefit by experiencing less police interaction, and less fear and violence when interactions do occur.
USE OF FORCE POLICY REVIEW & RECOMMENDATIONS
At a recent Public Safety Committee meeting, Police Chief Walter Ostrenga requested LAW review MPD’s “Use of Force,” “Use of Less Lethal Weapons,” “Deadly Force,” and “Canine Unit” policies. (5.01, 5.02, 5.03, and 6.27). LAW identified portions of those policies that are either unclear or inconsistent with the emerging consensus on best practices. LAW’s proposed revisions are consistent with WILEAG Accreditation Standards. For convenience, LAW provided the City with an edited version of the existing MPD policies, which are struck through though potential deletions and are potential additions are underlined. MPD modifications are highlighted in yellow.
The team of professionals at LAW assisted us with updating our General Orders which likely saved the City thousands of dollars and saved our police department many hours. They pulled from accredited police departments nationwide for best practices and policies that reflect the needs of society today. I hope you'll read through this with the knowledge that the intent of LAW's assistance was to support our police department and all of our residents AND provide a free resource for the taxpayers of Monona. VIEW LAW USE OF FORCE 5.01 REWRITE
LAW provides civil legal services for WI low-income persons. Assists people with legal issues involving divorce, child custody/support, domestic violence, elder abuse, health care, Medicare, Social Security, public benefits, employment, guardianship, migrant workers, landlord/tenant, and more. LAW has offices are in Green Bay, La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, and Racine.
LAW programs such as the Reentry Legal Services Program (formally DOES Project), Center for Driver’s License Recovery and Employability, Eviction Defense Project, Low Income Tax Clinic, and Elder Rights Project show us, on a daily basis, how even minor interactions with law enforcement can have a devastating and cascading effect on LAW's clients' lives. Arrests, tickets, and detentions — often seen as minor side-effects of police contact — regularly result in lost jobs, exclusion from public housing, court debt, loss of transportation, and pervasive fear and humiliation. Sometimes, as George Floyd’s death has reminded the world, those interactions end in the ultimate tragedy: the death of individuals and the destruction of families.