Madison mayor apologizes after video of her thanking police goes public
Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway is walking back the comments she made in a video that was recorded as a way for her to thank the city’s police officers for their work during the coronavirus pandemic and the recent protests and violence that erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
, Rhodes-Conway reiterated her commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement and said she “failed to center this in her message to the police department.” She went on to acknowledge the video may have damaged her relationship with the Black community.
“I realize I may have done irreparable harm with my actions. I realize too that I may have permanently lost any trust I may have had,” she said in the post.
In the video to Madison police officers, which was shared in the pro-MPD “We Stand With The Madison Police Department”
, Rhodes-Conway told the officers she recognized her focus on community needs meant she forgot to recognize and show her appreciation for law enforcement.
“I know you are working hard and doing an amazing job under unbelievably hard circumstances and I thank you for your service,” she said in the video. The person who shared the video blasted Rhodes-Conway for posting the video with a password protection on it and asking her to deliver the message publicly. "Stop kowtowing," it read in all caps.
Rhodes-Conway also used the video to sympathize with the officers’ efforts during the protests, agreeing that standing outside in heavy gear while people insult your profession must be “absolutely infurating” and “frightening” when they’re in harm’s way and people are throwing rocks as well as other objects at them.
“It must be agonizing to work so many years to build relationships around our city; to be as committed as I know you are to community policing and to still be criticized for not doing enough,” she continued in the video.
In her apology, Rhodes-Conway stressed she is “committed to advancing the work of equitable systems change. It’s why I ran for office, and it is the work that I will strive to do.”
She conceded she may make more “missteps along the way as a white woman learning how to facilitate such change,” noting how her race may make it difficult for her to see the institutional biases that have favored her throughout her life. However, she promised to learn from those mistakes.
Some black community members expressed concern over the statements made in the mayor's video to police.
"When I first saw the video, I can say there was rage, but even under that there was heartbreak," Joshua Hargrove, Tracy Wood Associates senior associate, former Dane County prosecutor said.
Hargrove took part in a recent protest in Madison where he said the mayor expressed her understanding of the black community's pain and anger and offered support. He said that sentiment was lacking in her message to police.
"What she said betrayed everything she said to all of us, the work and the pursuit of equity," he said. "For her to find that to be the means of gaining solidarity with officers basically to de-legitimize the experience of black and brown folks so quickly is highly concerning to me."
Hargrove said standing in solidarity with community leaders is essential for change, but now he said that trust is broken.
"I do think there needs to be distance and the next time you come there needs to be a notepad, less talking and more listening because obviously everything we said to this point has fallen on deaf ears," he said.