On June 2, 2020, Monona made national news when Monona police officers entered a Monona home and held an unarmed man at gunpoint. That man, Keonte Furdge, was staying at the home of a friend. A neighbor called the police on Keonte when she saw him using his phone and sitting on the porch in his pajamas. This unfortunate incident was costly for the City and traumatic for Keonte. Monona City Council took swift action after receiving over 100 emails demanding answers and police reform. The City Council approved up to $36,000 for a consultant, The Riseling Group, to conduct an independent investigation of the incident. On Tuesday, November 3, the results of the investigation were released.
The investigation reports that officers violated Keonte's fourth amendment rights by entering the home without ringing the doorbell or knocking. They also reported that our police policies were outdated and in need of thorough review. The Riseling Group also recommends that we address police training. City Council did add additional funds to the 2021 police budget for training. In June and July, Monona's Public Safety Commission dedicated much of its time to updating and revising our police department's General Orders.
As a result of the June 2 incident, 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. 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.
After the release of The Riseling Group's findings, I reached out to LAW once again to ask for assistance in updating policies. In this case, LAW provided updates on the General Order 1.11 Search and Seizure. LAW has provided policy update recommendations which can be viewed at the link below.
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 continue to review and rewrite Monona PD's 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.
As always, if you'd like to discuss this or any other City matters, please do not hesitate to email me.