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Madison police ask victims, witnesses and even suspects: How are we doing?

November 16, 2018

The Madison Police Department wants to know: Were you “very dissatisfied,” “dissatisfied,” “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the way you were treated by police?

And that applies whether police were, say, returning your stolen bike or arresting you for assault with a deadly weapon.

Police Chief Mike Koval announced on his blog Wednesday that through an arrangement with the National Police Foundation, the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit is texting what amount to customer-satisfaction surveys to randomly selected groups of people who have had recent contact with Madison police officers — whether as victims, witnesses or suspects, or in some other capacity.

“While the department has a long history of seeking community input through surveys and other mechanisms, this will allow us to hear from those who we have had direct contact,” Koval wrote. “My hope is that this process — along with other feedback mechanisms — will allow us to continue to improve the quality of service we provide to the community.”

Links to the survey started going out about a week ago to every person who has had contact with a Madison police officer and provided a cellphone number during a randomly selected week, Koval said, and that approach will continue until the National Police Foundation “decides they have a large enough number of responses to draw conclusions.” He said they’re hoping for a response rate of about 10 percent.

Among the five questions are: “How much do you agree with the following statement: During the recent contact, the officer clearly explained the reasons for his or her actions” and “How well are the police who work in your neighborhood doing at treating people fairly regardless of who they are?”

Respondents are asked to rate police on a 4-point scale.

Koval told the Wisconsin State Journal that the “survey does not go to the substantive merits of the case or provide an opportunity to contest” charges.

“Even an arrested person — regardless of the charges — has an opinion on whether the officers were appropriate in their handling of the incident,” he said.

The survey helps fulfill some of the 146 recommendations in a $372,000, independent review of police that generally gave the department high marks and was submitted to the city in December 2017.

Included in those recommendations was for police to “devise additional ways to solicit and encourage feedback from all of its communities regarding the performance of the Department.”

Koval said the first batch of survey responses could arrive at the department early next year. The survey is being funded through a federal grant awarded to National Police Foundation.

Ald. Paul Skidmore, 9th District, a member of the city’s Public Safety Review Committee, said “a variety of city agencies are reaching out to solicit comments and feedback on their services.”

“I know that a variety of groups have been critical about MPD officers’ accountability to citizens, particularly minorities, so they are reaching out for feedback on their behavior,” he said.

Madison police have separately been surveying residents about crime and policing since at least 2010.

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