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Madison police use-of-force incident ruled ‘reasonable,’ review finds minor violations

MADISON (WKOW) — The Madison Police Department completed its internal investigation into a use-of-force incident with a teenager on June 3.

Officers were called to a home on the west side of Madison to take a 17-year-old male into custody. After video surfaced of the arrest, a complaint was filed with the department, saying officers used excessive force against the teenager who was having a mental health crisis.

Madison police say, after an internal review, the investigation showed two minor violations of MPD standard operating procedure on the part of a sergeant. But the investigation determined the officer’s use of force during the incident was reasonable. Chief Koval says that is consistent with a UW Police Department external review.

Chief Koval says the disposition of the investigation doesn’t mean the outcome in the case was “desirable.” He says his “department recognizes a responsibility to use force in a professional and appropriate manner, and to continually evaluate the tools, training and policy guidance that are provided to officers.”

To restrain the resisting teen, the sergeant resorted to punching the teenager in the head.

“The use of focused strikes…is a permissible option,”  says UW-Police Professional Standards Lieutenant John McCaughtry.  “The targeting of the head area…should be avoided if possible.”

McCaughtry’s notes if responders had made other choices at several points of the incident, the encounter may have de-escalated.

Chief Koval says as a result of the incident, the department will follow these steps:

 The MPD personnel involved in the incident will receive follow-up coaching/training to identify areas for improvement and recognize decision-points that could have resulted in a better outcome.
MPD will be reviewing internal use-of-force training to identify strategies to improve outcomes and provide appropriate training to department personnel.
The department will be sending internal use of force trainers to external trainings focused on team tactics and other strategies to reduce the need for application of higher levels of physical force.
The department will provide updated use of force training to all commissioned personnel this fall and again in early 2020.
The department will review applicable standard operating procedures and evaluate if modifications should occur to align with the training described above or provide additional guidance to MPD personnel.
The department is pursuing training to provide officers with updated information and skills to improve interactions with youth. This training – anticipated in 2020 – will address adolescent brain development/behavior, de-escalation strategies, and working cooperatively with other service providers.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes -Conway released a statement about the investigation, saying she “appreciates the Chief’s stated commitment to doing better – to improving future outcomes through improved training, and adherence to our best-practice policies related to de-escalation, use of force and the police response to those suffering mental illness.”

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Dani Maxwell

Dani Maxwell is the Content Manager for 27 WKOW.

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