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Madison police efforts with immigrant communities highlighted in national report

MADISON (WKOW) — The Madison Police Department’s efforts in building positive relationships with immigrant communities have been featured in a new national report.

The report, Community Policing in Immigrant Neighborhoods: Stories of Success, featured two police agencies – the Madison Police Department and the Aurora, Colorado, Police Department.

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval highlighted the report Monday in a blog post.

The report was created as a guide to law enforcement agencies across the country on how they can expand their community policing efforts in immigrant neighborhoods, while also ensuring transparent communication with all necessary stakeholders.

“We take the stance that we cannot go at this policing thing by ourselves,” said Assistant Chief John Patterson. “We need communities, relationships, their partnership, their trust, their help. And that includes every resident in the community, whether or not they have immigration concerns.”

Patterson oversees the department’s policies on immigration and is the single point of contact to answer questions from the community and communicate with federal immigration authorities when needed.

That’s one of the things the report highlighted as a best practice.

“Immigration concerns and immigration enforcement is at the forefront of a lot of our community members’ minds, because those concerns are very real for them. They’re living with those every day. And what we’ve done is we’ve been very transparent with what our policy is in regards to federal immigration enforcement,” Patterson told 27 News.

The department’s policy is not to get involved in non-violent immigration law violations.

Madison PD is also recognized as being a groundbreaking leader based on its outreach efforts, engagement programs, policies/procedures and collaborations with community agencies/government officials/community leaders/community members.

“We’re really becoming viewed as not just a singular group within MPD, but more of a team approach throughout the whole county,” Patterson said.

Police leaders say their programs like Amigos en Azul, or Friends in Blue, where officers work with kids and community members, is one example. Plus, the department’s CORE team, hosting youth academies for the Latino community.

Patterson said the department could never have been highlighted in this report if not for partnerships with local organizations.

Lupita Montoto with La Movida radio in Madison says the police department has been able to build trust in the Latino community through its outreach programs over the years. La Movida collaborates with officers at community events and works closely with the Amigos en Azul team.

The radio station also invites Chief Koval to join a talk show about once a month. Montoto says listeners regularly call in to ask questions and connect with him on Facebook videos. The chief will be on the program on 94.5 FM & 1480 AM Wednesday from 9-10 a.m.

Montoto tells 27 News she believes the Latino community feels safer in the community because of the police relationships, despite concerns nationally regarding immigration.

In 2018, The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), the author of the report, researched agencies they believed were accomplishing the goals and chose MPD as one of just two to highlight.

“Immigration enforcement has kind of ramped up over the last couple of years, police agencies have expressed a need for outreach to immigrant communities, while also balancing up with open lines of communication with immigration authorities,” said senior research associate Lisa Mantel, with PERF.

Mantel says other agencies can learn from MPD’s programs and create similar policies.

PERF has shared the report with its 3,000 member departments. The researchers have also looked into other issues impacting police agencies like use of force, hiring and supervision.

Download the report HERE.

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