Madison Police Chief discusses public image of MPD officers

Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2014 --- 9:43 p.m.

Recent police-related events across the country have people talking about the public image of police officers. NBC15 sat down with Madison Police Chief Michael Koval to discuss his views on the public image of Madison police officers.

Since he became Chief in April 2014, Koval has emphasized the view of Madison officers as "guardians" rather than "warriors."

"A guardian is someone who has a fiduciary relationship of trust," Koval said.

However, Koval has noticed a recent trend nationwide that contrasts this ideology, and portrays police officers like military officers.

"I think in the post 9-11 world, with war on terror, war on drugs, you do have that militarization of the police department," he said.

And it's an issue that concerns him greatly.

"It keeps me up at night because it's in fact becoming more and more prevalent," he said.

For example, Koval said he subscribes to more than a dozen police trade magazines, many with cover images that paint a bad picture in his mind.

"It looks like we're an army in full hard gear as if we're in Afghanistan. We never see the soft side of police. I don't know why that is... but it's concerning to me because that's not how we want the face of the MPD to be reflected," he said.

The problem with militarization of law enforcement, Koval said, comes down to public trust, solving crimes and keeping citizens safe.

"It goes right to the heart of trust. When there's a crime, how able are you then to mobilize people to speak to come forward to speak to what occurred? Witnesses, victims? At what extent is the public willing to bear their soul to the police if they don't trust the police?" he said.

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