Citing staffing shortages, Madison police to shift 12 officers to patrol duty

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MADISON (WKOW) — Twelve non-patrol police positions are being allocated to patrol duties in Madison due to ongoing staffing shortages, according to Madison Police Chief Mike Koval.

“When you remove those positions I think it speaks, unfortunately, to what is going to pick up that void and who is going to fill those needs that we were doing,” Koval told 27 News. “But we can’t keep pace.”

The changes, which will take place in 2020, will result in reductions to the department’s Community Policing Teams; the Community Outreach and Resource Education unit; the Gang Unit and the elimination of two neighborhood officer positions, Koval wrote today in his blog.

He told 27 News that the decision did not come lightly since he believes outreach is becoming as important to policing as calls for service, but knows that the community expects their calls to be answered in a timely fashion when they need help.

“What’s important now is we have to service our emergency or priority calls first and foremost,” he said. “[Community policing] is a harder sell to the community when they equate policing with, ‘when I call 911, I want a cop and I want her to be there fast.”

The cuts follow the elimination in 2017 of seven non-patrol positions (the Safety Education unit and the afternoon shift of the Traffic Enforcement Safety Team (TEST)), according to Koval.

By reallocating these resources, Koval said he’s scaling back on things he thinks are critically important in order to perform the department’s basic calls for service function that the community deserves and is expecting.

MPD’s patrol function is short by 31 of an appropriate staffing level, according to the most recent study completed, based in 2018 data.

The chief said that he believes that while recruitment is down, the reason they need more officers isn’t because officers aren’t applying. He said it’s a budgetary issue.

Koval said he “completely” understands the constraints that the common council faces during the budget season, but said he’s obligated to talk about his own department’s constraints.

“I have no aspirations that my budgetary memo will result in 19 new positions. I don’t know if I’ll get any,” he said. “It’s my role to suggest that we’re falling behind that curve, and there are unintended consequences.”

He said he hopes the community can understand the need for police to be community partners and allies in the future.

“I would hate to see us reduced to literally a reactive call for service agency,” he said. “If you are only thrust when there is chaos, and turmoil, and stress, arrest and citations, then we will have a self-fulfilling narrative in which the police can never be looked at as community partners and allies.”

That study also found:

  • Reactive patrol workload increased by about 11% from 2017 to 2018.
  • MPD patrol officers are spending more than 40 minutes each hour (on average) on reactive patrol work.
  • A member of the community calling for police assistance has an almost one in ten chance that MPD patrol personnel are only able to respond to emergency/priority incidents.

The full staffing report is available  here:  https://www.cityofmadison.com/police/documents/PatrolWorkload2019.pdf

Dan Plutchak

Dan Plutchak

Social Media and Digital Content Manager, 27 News

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