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Nominees to Madison’s Police Civilian Oversight Board share goals

Ten people have been selected for the 13-seat board and two share what they hope to bring to the conversation on policing.
Published: Sep. 30, 2020 at 7:10 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 1, 2020 at 4:05 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Madison’s Police Civilian Oversight Board has started taking shape. On Friday, the first round of appointments to the board was released.

Ten people have been recommended for appointment. Eight were nominated by local organizations and selected by Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and Common Council leadership. Rhodes-Conway also nominated two people.

Madison’s Common Council approved measures in early September to create the board as well as an Independent Police Monitor position.

NBC15 spoke with two appointees, Rachel Kincade and Ankita Bharadwaj, to hear more about their goals for the board and what they hope to bring to the table.

Kincade was nominated by the Wisconsin chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Her goal is better police training to handle people experiencing mental health crises.

“We really want to see people trained in de-escalation, or maybe have mental health professionals go on calls,” Kincade explained.

She also wants police to have more options in those situations besides an arrest.

“I think it’s much safer for our community that we treat people rather than jail them,” Kincade said.

Bharadwaj was nominated by the Outreach LGBTQ Community Center. Bharadwaj, who uses the pronouns “they/them”, said their priority is more transparency in policing.

“We want to know what led you to arrest somebody, or we want to know why you did not take action in certain cases,” Bharadwaj explains.

Bharadwaj also said it is important to let the community weigh in and offer feedback. Bharadwaj explained that because police salaries are supported by taxpayer money, they feel police are employees of the Madison community.

“Just like every company has employee reviews every quarter, it’s time to have employee reviews,” Bharadwaj said.

Both Kincade and Bharadwaj also bring personal experience to their roles on the board.

“I’ve struggled with depression all of my life,” Kincade shared, adding, “I’ve come into police contact during mental health crises."

The Madison Police Department has had mental health professionals from Journey Mental Health embedded in the department for several years, according to MPD spokesperson Joel DeSpain. He explained that they can assist officers as they go out to calls and provide any help when necessary.

MPD is one of six Law-Enforcement Mental Health learning sites in the country selected by the Council of State Governments Justice Center and U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. Other sites include the Houston Police Department, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Portland Police Department.

The department also holds their own police academy, where DeSpain noted has “great emphasis” on deescalation techniques taught.

“I also see myself as a woman of color who’s queer and who’s not a citizen, with these life experiences, I know there are so many other people who share the same marginalization as I do," Bharadwaj explained, adding, “I know how it is to live in a system that doesn’t feel like it’s representing you or your views.”

Both acknowledged the work of the board will be an ongoing process.

“This is not a change that’s going to happen overnight, but that piece by piece, maybe we can make some changes and turn things around in the long run,” Kincade said.

Kincade and Bharadwaj said they want to be a voice for the most vulnerable in the community.

“There has been broken trust between the police department and certain communities and certain things need to change before that trust could be rebuilt with those communities,” Kincade explained.

Bharadwaj added, “I want to make sure no person is left out in how they see the system going forward.”

The two said they are honored to be part of the board and are excited to work with the other nominees.

“These organizations represent marginalized people of our communities and giving voice to them is true democracy,” Bharadwaj explained.

The Common Council will select two more people this week, and the Mayor and Council leaders will select an additional person nominated by the NAACP.

All 13 appointments will be submitted for confirmation at the Common Council meeting on Oct. 6.

clarification: This story has been updated with statements from the Madison Police Department.

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