Madison police union raises concerns over mayor's response to teen's arrest

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- The Madison Professional Police Officers Association (MPPOA) is raising concerns over the Madison mayor's blog post on the actions of a police officer during the arrest of a black teen who was going through a mental health crisis.

In June, a home surveillance video of the arrest was shared on social media. It showed Madison Police Sergeant Joseph Engler delivering three blows to the teen's head while other officers tried to restrain him. The police department launched an internal investigation and Engler was placed on restrictive duty.

On Thursday, MPPOA President Kelly Powers released a letter sent to Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

"The judgmental statements in your blog entry are of enormous concern to our members - the dedicated men and women that work to protect our community," stated Powers. ". As you well know, and as your blog even acknowledges, an independent review of the incident you reference has been initiated and is well underway. For you to have rendered such judgments about the actions of a police officer in an incident - presumably on the basis of a singular, incomplete video - while that incident is under investigation, is extraordinarily disappointing."

Rhodes- Conway proposed several steps for ongoing efforts the City will take when it comes to mental health and emergency response in her blog post on August 6.

"The officer’s actions may or may not have violated the law; and may or may not have violated MPD policy; however, police actions in this incident are not and will never be acceptable as best practice in the City of Madison," stated Rhodes-Conway.

According to Powers, the mayor's post could influence the public's perception of the incident and could influence an external review.

Another concern Powers has with the blog post is the effect it has on officers.

"Despite how the laws, rules, policies, and training might ordinarily govern their actions, should they now be told to first ask themselves “What would Mayor Rhodes-Conway do," questioned Powers.

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval released a statement reacting to the mayor's blog post on Aug 6. Koval said in part: "I feel it is critical to have a fair process and I cannot be viewed as making any judgments or rendering an opinion before all investigatory and review steps are complete. “Process” matters.