Temporary Leadership: MPD's Acting Chief will not apply for chief position
Acting Madison Police Chief Vic Wahl recently settled into his new title, and he does not plan to apply to become the next chief.
On Tuesday, John Stofflet sat down with Wahl for a one-on-one interview. Stofflet spoke with Wahl’s former boss, Mike Koval on Monday.
Koval announced his retirement on Sunday. On Monday, the transition process began, with Wahl taking the police department reins as its temporary new leader. He indicated that he is not planning to apply to become police chief.
“I will not be putting in for the permanent position,” said Wahl. “I want to focus on continuity in leading the department through the transition phase and helping the new permanent chief transition into their position.”
Wahl will be the acting chief until the Police and Fire Commission (PFC) conducts a hiring process. The process could take up to a year to complete.
Wahl began serving with MPD in 1991. He was assigned to patrol and the Dane County Narcotics and Gang Task Force. He served in a variety of assignments, including Professional Standards & Internal Affairs and in the West District.
According to MPD, Wahl was instrumental in bringing less lethal force technologies to the department, and was heavily involved in the development of MPD's K9 unit and the formation of Capital K9s.
Wahl has an undergraduate degree and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has provided legal instruction to police officers over the years.
Wahl said he has worked under five chiefs since he joined MPD. He said he is hoping to take a little bit of what he has learned from each of them to guide his leadership.
“I think Chief Koval and I in terms of substance were perfectly aligned,” said Wahl. “ We had similar philosophies on the department, on professionalism, on having very high standards for everything we do as an agency. I think the difference will be very much stylistic. It doesn’t take much time talking to Chief Koval to realize he wears his heart on his sleeve and he’s a very passionate, emotional guy, and I think I’m more on the opposite end of the spectrum, so I am a little more reserved.”
, Wahl said a leader should be evaluated on whether he or she leaves their organization in a better state than they found it. Wahl stated. “And by that measure, Chief Koval's tenure should be viewed as an unqualified success.”
He said Koval hired about 45 percent of the current workforce. Currently, MPD can have 600 full-time employees. 479 of those are commissioned and the remaining 119 are civilian. 262 of them were hired during Koval’s tenure. Koval also made 115 promotions during his time as police chief.
Wahl said on Tuesday, they are beginning the budget process.
“We’ll take the next month-and-a-half or so to navigate through that,” said Wahl. “I think my most important job initially is to reinforce internally to the department and externally to the community, that MPD is still moving forward, that we have continuity, and we’re going to continue delivering the quality of service we have been all along and not miss a beat.”
Wahl commented on Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway’s operating budget on the same day she unveiled it. Koval had been against some of the budget proposals and told NBC15 News on Monday, that he was growing tired of the trend that public safety was not a feature item, but rather treated as an also-ran.
“There are some things we asked for in terms of efforts and initiatives, particularly related to officer wellness that I think will be funded in the executive budget. I view that very positively, those are things I think are important to us as an agency and improve how we serve the community,” said Wahl. “I think we have been clear over the years that we feel we have a need for increased staffing, and that message won’t change with me as chief. To the extent there is not new positions in the budget, that is a bit of a disappointment.”
The PFC's next scheduled meeting is in two weeks, on Monday, Oct. 14. The board will likely "officially" designate a department officer to act as chief during the appointment process. The board is expected to announce recruitment, testing and evaluation plans in the near future.