Lawsuit challenges racial quotas for Madison’s Police Civilian Oversight Board

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 8:09 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 30, 2021 at 6:45 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A lawsuit was filed Wednesday against the City of Madison in regard to its Police Civilian Oversight Board alleges racial discrimination.

Conservative law group Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) is filing the lawsuit on behalf of David Blaska. The lawsuit states Blaska was not chosen to serve on the oversight board because he is white.

The oversight board was created last year in an effort to connect the Madison Police Department with the community. The Madison Common Council also voted that the 11 member board would have a diverse makeup, meaning at least half of its members must be Black. There also has to be at least one member that identifies as Asian, one as Latino and one as Native American.

“Madison’s system of racial quotas is a clear violation of the Constitution’s ban on racial discrimination,” WILL stated. The law group will seek punitive damages and for the City to reconstitute the board.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes Conway fired back at the law group Tuesday in reference to the filing.

“WILL is developing quite a track record of cases,” said Rhodes-Conway. “They are against common-sense public health measures, like shutting schools when a highly contagious disease hits; they want to rip out our ballot drop boxes because they don’t like the candidates our voters are casting their ballots for; they want tear down the Civilian Oversight Board because they don’t recognize the expertise that over-policed communities bring to a conversation about over-policing.”

Madison city attorney Mike Haas pointed out communities of color have had more police contact and higher incarceration rates and argued the requirements are different from other examples of quotas, such as admissions to medical schools or preferential treatment in the awarding of government contracts.

“It’s about ensuring safe, fair, and humane policing for everyone our community – a compelling governmental interest if ever there was one,” he said.

WILL had threatened to file a lawsuit in January.

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