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Police chief pushes back on Madison school resource officer contract language

MADISON (WKOW) — Madison Police Chief Mike Koval is objecting to a provision in a proposed contract approved by the Madison Metropolitan School District for continuing the school resource officer program.

On Monday night, the board approved a new contract with the Madison Police Department that will keep SROs in the schools through the 2021-2022 school year. The contract was passed on a vote of 4-2.

Supporters of the program said the schools need the officers to help with school safety. Board of Education President Mary Burke said this is the best decision given recent events.

However the board added language to the contract that would allow the district to remove an office for “cause.”

In a blog post today, Koval wrote, “We had never agreed (nor will I ever agree) to language regarding the ability to remove an officer for ’cause.’  The School District floated this language out last week and it was made unequivocally clear that I would not agree to this language.”

Koval said at this point, there is no contract between the district and the Madison Police Department.

“I can only assume that MMSD will present proposed language changes to me shortly, but again, I will reiterate that the processes for disciplining or assigning officers are governed by state law and labor contract, and these rights cannot be bargained away in an agreement with a third party,” Koval wrote.

27 News reached out to Madison Metro School District spokesperson Rachel Strauch-Nelson for comment on Koval’s blog. She told us she couldn’t comment on the details since the contract process is still ongoing, but says, “Our aim has been to work collaboratively through the process to come to an agreement that makes improvements for our students and allows us to work together when issues arise. We look forward to working with MPD through that process.”

More from Koval’s blog:

Wisconsin Statute 62.13 (3m) outlines the seven (7) standards for “just causes” that must occur before a police officer is suspended, reduced in rank or terminated—the City cannot discipline an officer without complying with these statutory requirements.  State law provides that review and oversight of this process rests with the Police and Fire Commission (PFC).  Further, the contract between the City and the Madison Professional Police Officers Association (MPPOA) outlines the parameters of the SRO position and this cannot be negotiated away with a separate MMSD contract.

Also, as a side note, this contract even as presently constituted, is not “final” until it has gone through the Common Council and has been authorized for signatures.

Frankly, it is time for the School Board to end this 18 month saga and just ratify the terms of the contract that were agreed upon.  I believe that I am speaking for more than just a few folks when I say that the future of MMSD is tied to the perceptions and the realities of school safety—time to act and get this done without further debates, committees, and studies!

Dan Plutchak

Social Media and Digital Content Manager, 27 News

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