Tuesday, March 1, 2016 --- 9:45 p.m.
MADISON, Wis. --- Extreme frustration and disappointment, that is how Madison Police Chief Mike Koval is feeling after a Dane County Judge's decision.
"I'm literally at my wits' end," said Chief Koval.
Dane Co. Judge James Troupis, ruled against a lawsuit put forth by MPD to have the Mendota Mental Health Institute as its primary treatment facility for adult men who need emergency detention. Instead, MPD will have to continue to transport them to the state-authorized treatment facility in Oshkosh. Chief Koval says this is an issue his department has been dealing with since 2014.
Driving 90 miles (one-way) ties up a lot of resources, especially when officers are making multiple trips. "Perhaps every three to five 8-hour shifts I see a transport to Winnebago from our department alone," said Chief Koval. He continued, "Not to mention you have two cops from a beat gone for almost five to eight hours at a time. Frankly, that puts public safety at risk." He went on to mention the impact it also has on overtime, mileage, and other costs.
Chief Koval shared a photo with NBC15 that his officers texted him this past summer. He said it's an image that puts this all into perspective. "At Oshkosh, we had four MPD squad cars with eight officers because we had four transports in one 8 hour shift. That just floored me. I realized we sort of reached rock bottom or so I thought."
Emergency dentition is a last resort, according to Chief Koval. He said it's only used after officers have exhausted all local options.
"Our local hospitals are very much at capacity. They can't take anymore voluntary admits or if the person's behavior is so volatile that they do not have the capacity to offer a secure environment for those needs," said Chief Koval.
As officers are continually strapped, the chief is worried it could lead to even bigger problems. He's afraid officers may just arrest someone and put them in jail instead of getting them the proper help they may need.
"It's a very tempting proposition. One that I hope none of my officers will never take, but I am concerned when you ask people to do more with less, and to hustle back, and to be helpful to your own neighborhood community - you have to admit it is sort of tempting to cut corners. I don't want that to happen. I hope it's not going to happen. We have supervisors in place to make sure it doesn't happen, but at the end of the day we are about one user sending people over to that jail."
NBC15 reached out to Judge Troupis to hear his reasoning for ruling against Madison Police; however, the call wasn't returned.
Chief Koval says the city attorney is currently weighing options to see if an appeal will be filed. MPD has 30 days to make that decision.