We acknowledge the justified pain, anger, frustration, and resentment our community — particularly our Black community — is feeling. We acknowledge the fear and distrust. We acknowledge the cumulative weight of our history.
March 2021 Update
Last June, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department (UWPD) announced its Racial Equity Initiative (REI). Since that time we have continued to move this initiative forward and, as promised, would like to provide our community with an update on progress and next steps.
Like too many social institutions within the United States, the history of policing is stained by its complicity in perpetuating racial injustice. Over the course of its history, policing has played a direct role in the preservation of slavery, segregation, political corruption, xenophobia, the infringement of constitutional rights to free speech and peaceful assembly, and the destabilization of communities via mass incarceration. Today, instances of police brutality such as those involving George Floyd are tragic reminders of the continued ubiquity of systemic racism in our country.
These are uncomfortable truths, but truths that are nonetheless acknowledged by the UW-Madison Police Department.
We acknowledge the justified pain, anger, frustration, and resentment our community — particularly our Black community — is feeling right now. We acknowledge the fear and distrust. We acknowledge the cumulative weight of our history. We acknowledge the need to listen, empathize, and actively combat injustice within our community. We acknowledge the importance of actions over words on the path to lasting reconciliation.
In that spirit, our community is encouraged to review the following two sections of content. The first section highlights some core practices, policies etc. that have already been adopted and operationalized by the department. This list is not exhaustive, and it also does not suggest our work is done. Rather, it should help orient our community to current practices within the department, including how these practices align with Campaign Zero’s police reform recommendations. The second section will lay out the vision for a comprehensive action plan for identifying, implementing, and continually assessing needed change.
From our community, we ask for two things—openness and hope. We ask for the openness to learn about and engage with your police department as well as navigate the messiness of change alongside the men and women here at the UWPD who are committed to the values of justice and service. We also ask for the hope that, despite the darkness of our shared history, we might find redemption in our future for the benefit of each other and those who come after us.
What We're Doing
In recent weeks, we’ve received many questions about UWPD’s practices, policies, and procedures. We’ve worked to compile information that addresses the most common themes we’ve heard from you, our community, as well as those we identified as relevant to the national conversation regarding policing. We have additional information on our website.
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UWPD meets the spirit of all police reform recommendations, in practice and policy, that are outlined in Campaign Zero’s #8CantWait project. For a full breakdown of each recommendation, and how UWPD compares, see the full #8CantWait section below.
Use of Force Policy
UWPD Policy 1.3, in part: “The UW-Madison Police Department recognizes and respects the value and sanctity of each human life. The primary duty of members of the department is to preserve the life of all individuals, including the lives of individuals who are in the custody of law enforcement. When vesting police officers and security officers with the lawful authority to use force to protect the public, a careful balancing of all human interests is required. Therefore, it is the policy of this department that police officers and security officers shall use the least amount of force they believe reasonable and necessary to effectively stop a threat or bring an incident under control. The application of deadly force is a measure of last resort, only to be employed when an officer reasonably believes all other options have been exhausted or would be ineffective.”
Limits to Authority Policy
UWPD Policy 1.2, in part: “All UWPD employees have a duty to intervene or request assistance if they witness another employee or sworn officer engaging in an activity they believe to be a violation of civil rights or an unjustified or excessive use of force. If an employee so intervenes or requests assistance based on their observations, the employee shall notify a supervisor as soon as possible for possible investigation. Failure for an employee to intervene or report such violations of civil rights or unlawful use of force shall be investigated and may result in discipline. If an employee intervenes or requests assistance based on their observations of a civil rights violation or an unjustified or excessive use of force, they shall not be disciplined for their actions. Retaliation against an employee who intervenes or requests assistance is prohibited and shall be subject to disciplinary action.”
Consistent with our commitment to transparency, all UWPD policies are posted on our website.
All UWPD officers receive initial training when hired, and mandatory ongoing training throughout their careers. In 2019, our department members completed more than 6,000 combined hours of various training in a number of critical areas, including but not limited to:
- Implicit bias
- Fair and impartial policing
- Procedural justice
- Mental health
- Officer wellness and resiliency
UWPD was the first in the state, the only in Dane County, and one of only a handful of departments in the Midwest to begin providing specialized de-escalation training to all sworn officers. Through Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics (ICAT) training, developed by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), officers are trained to focus on ways to de-escalate a critical incident situation using communications skills and other tactics rather than resorting to force.
Diversity & Engagement
Collaboration with the Law Enforcement and Leaders of Color Collaboration
Following demonstrations and unrest in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, a group of local police chiefs approached the United Way of Dane County to open dialogue with leaders of color. The goal was to open communication through new relationships between local police leaders and leaders of color from organizations like the Urban League of Greater Madison, Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, Centro Hispano, African American Council of Churches, 100 Black Men, and more. The Law Enforcement and Leaders of Color Collaboration was officially formed. This first-of-its kind effort in Dane County later resulted in the creation of the Special Community/Police Task Force. The primary goal of the task force was to issue recommendations regarding use of force. View the full task force report here.
The Law Enforcement and Leaders of Color Collaboration continues to meet regularly to discuss challenges and work together to create change.
UWPD Police Advisory Council
Comprised of various stakeholders representing a number of offices, schools/colleges, shared governance bodies, etc. across campus, the UWPD Police Advisory Council acts in an advisory capacity to provide the department with community input and feedback. The council accepts, reviews, and discusses concerns voiced by students, faculty, and staff and provides input on UWPD programs, projects, and policies aimed at improving campus safety.
We strive to cultivate a police department that is reflective of the communities we serve. In 2019, UWPD designed a first-of-its-kind position dedicated to assessing and improving our recruitment, hiring, and retention processes by consistently applying an equity lens to these efforts. Dr. Louis Macias serves as our Executive Director of Recruitment, Inclusion, and Diversity and through his work, UWPD has undertaken a comprehensive review and assessment of our hiring practices which have led to the implementation of a number of process changes. This senior leadership position was not only a first for UWPD, but we believe the first such position for any police agency in the country. In addition to his unique role in the areas of recruitment, hiring, and retention, Dr. Macias also serves as a liaison between the department and campus on matters related to diversity and inclusion.
We believe in data — and using the metrics discovered in that data to improve as a police department. We also believe in the transparency of our data. Below are two data sets that we think are helpful, based on questions and feedback we’ve recently received. If you’d like other data not listed, please contact us.
Use of Force Data
Use of force data is collected and analyzed regularly. The data is broken down by race, time of day, and type of force used – all of the information is posted quarterly on our website.
In 2019, UWPD responded to 12,286 calls for service. These calls are either initiated by someone who contacts UWPD, or initiated when an officer is out on patrol. Data indicates .002% of our calls for service resulted in a complaint or internal investigation.
In 2019, UWPD received 12 external complaints and 12 internally-generated complaints/investigations. Citizens can file a complaint or compliment by submitting a simple form on our website.
View 2015-2019 complaint/investigation data, with conclusions, here.
UWPD Student Contacts, by Race
In 2019, UWPD officers had 657 field contacts. A field contact is when a police officer comes into contact with someone, but the contact results in no law enforcement action. Examples include traffic stops resulting in verbal warnings, “check person” calls for suspicious behavior, assisting a motorist, or calls for assistance (student requires transport to the hospital for medical or mental health reasons). Below is a breakdown of our 2019 field contacts, by race.
Review a breakdown of our expenses over the last three fiscal years here.
Accreditation is one measure we’ve proactively pursued and maintained for many years in an effort to ensure we’re in alignment with established best practices in policing. To achieve and maintain accreditation, UWPD is required to meet specific professional standards and voluntarily submit to ongoing processes of review administered by an independent third party.
UWPD is distinguished in that our department is accredited by three separate entities: the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA), the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA), and the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Accreditation Group (WILEAG).
UWPD is the only police department in the State of Wisconsin that is certified through all three independent accreditation bodies.
UWPD was among the early adopters of the use of video cameras by police officers. In the mid-1990’s, UWPD was one of the first police departments in Wisconsin to begin using dash cameras in patrol vehicles.
In 2015, UWPD became one of the first police departments in the state, and the only in Dane County, to begin using body cameras for all police contacts. This was a proactive move to ensure the best possible customer service and promote accountability. The cameras also assist the department with cases, disputes, and/or complaints that require investigation. Through a series of community forums and other communications, UWPD developed a body-worn camera policy that we believe strikes an even balance in terms of public safety and privacy.
Commitment to Further Action
While we hope the information shared above demonstrates our commitment to the UW-Madison community across a number of important areas, we recognize and embrace the need to push further.
Over the course of the next academic year, we will implement our Racial Equity Initiative — a comprehensive action plan for identifying, adopting, and continually assessing needed changes within the department in the short-and-long-term. A core part of this plan will be to specifically ensure our department demonstrates its commitment to racial justice in policing in ways that are meaningful to members of our community, particularly those from marginalized groups. This plan will take place across four phases:
Listen ➠ Review ➠ Learn ➠ Report
UWPD will actively engage with students, faculty, staff, and other community groups we serve. Multiple in-person forums, virtual sessions, and/or other means of formally collecting feedback will be planned and implemented. Particular emphasis will be placed on actively reaching out to marginalized communities in order to encourage participation and reinforce our firm belief that this action plan must account for their critical feedback, ideas, and stories in order to be successful.
UWPD will form a workgroup consisting of key external and internal stakeholders. The purpose of this group will be to engage in a comprehensive review process of departmental policies and practices to ensure they align with fair and impartial policing standards. Members will represent a diversity of backgrounds and experiences, and will ideally include faculty, staff, students, and other community members.
UWPD will leverage the Listen and Review phases to better understand how we need to improve in terms of providing our community with critical and relevant information about our operations. We will then launch a comprehensive campaign to ensure our community has access to this information in the short-and-long-term.
UWPD will install a long-term accountability mechanism to ensure a continuous commitment to positive change and racial justice. We will use what we have learned throughout the Listen, Review, and Learn phases to develop an Equity Dashboard that includes key data points that measure the department’s adherence to fair, impartial, and just policing practices and outcomes. The Equity Dashboard will be updated on a frequent basis and be easily accessible on our website and social media.
We understand that members of our community might have immediate questions that have not been addressed on this page. We are committed to transparency and providing you with the information you are looking for, so please contact us with any questions, comments, or feedback and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.
Future updates regarding the UWPD Racial Equity Initiative will be posted on this webpage. Please check back frequently.
UWPD and #8CantWait
1Ban Chokeholds & Strangleholds
Per UWPD policy, the use of techniques that have a high likelihood of death, such as chokeholds or neck restraints, are not allowed unless the officer is justified in using deadly force and no other alternative is available.
Per UWPD policy, UWPD personnel are to use the least amount of force possible in order to accomplish their lawful objectives. Whenever possible, officers should use trained de-escalation skills, using the lowest amount of force reasonably possible to resolve the situation.
UWPD specifically trains all officers to de-escalate situations. In fact, UWPD was the first in the state, the only in Dane County, and one of only a handful of departments in the Midwest to begin providing specialized de-escalation training to all sworn officers. Through Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics (ICAT) training, officers are trained to focus on ways to de-escalate a critical incident situation using communications skills and other tactics.
3Require Warning Before Shooting
Per UWPD policy, before using deadly force, officers shall, if reasonably possible, identify themselves and order the subject to desist from unlawful activity. This requirement is reinforced in officer training.
In certain situations, a verbal warning may not be possible — like an active threat/shooter situation where there’s an immediate deadly threat to the officer and the community.
4Requires Exhaust All Alternatives Before Shooting
Per UWPD policy, officers should fire their firearms at another person only as a last resort to stop a subject engaged in conduct that has caused or imminently threatens to cause death or great bodily harm to another person. Officers should use deadly force only when no other alternative would be reasonably likely to to stop the threat.
5Duty to Intervene
Per UWPD policy, all employees have a duty to intervene or request assistance if they witness another employee or sworn officer engaging in an activity they believe to be a violation of civil rights or an unjustified or excessive use of force. If an employee so intervenes or requests assistance based on their observations, the employee shall notify a supervisor as soon as possible for possible investigation. Failure for an employee to intervene or report such violations of civil rights or unlawful use of force shall be investigated and may result in discipline.
6Ban Shooting at Moving Vehicles
UWPD policy prohibits police officers from discharging a firearm from or at a moving vehicle, unless no other reasonable option exists, and a greater imminent danger to an innocent person(s) is posed by the officer not discharging a firearm.
7Require Use of Force Continuum
UWPD policy clearly dictates when each use of force tool can/should be used, and how. Varying degrees of force may be justified depending on the dynamics of a situation. Police officers must keep this in mind and are permitted to use only the force necessary to accomplish lawful objectives. In every instance where force is to be used, the police officer contemplating the response to resistance must have a belief that the response to resistance in that situation is required AND a belief that the amount of force contemplated is required.
8Require Comprehensive Reporting
UWPD policy requires that a police supervisor and/or manager conduct a first-level use of force review of all reports involving the response to resistance (use of force) greater than compliant handcuffing. The review should determine if there are any policy, training, weapon/equipment, and/or discipline issues that should be addressed.
A department subject matter expert will then conduct a second-level use of force review. This second-level review assesses the use of force in light of department policy and training — this is to determine if any corrections should be made to policy or training. The expert conducting the second level reviews is to immediately report if they detect any violations of law or policy during their review.
For incidents where a firearm is discharged (for other than training or recreational purposes), or when the response to resistance results in serious injury or death, an immediate administrative review is initiated.