The unexpected retirement announcement of Madison’s long-serving Chief of Police in early 2020 presented the city’s Police and Fire Commission (PFC) a unique opportunity: to address the long-standing issue of distrust of law enforcement, particularly among residents from marginalized communities. PFC decided to use a range of methods to engage residents in informing the next critical hire for the Chief of Police. The process kicked into high gear in the midst of the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer, and the pressure on the city to respond to residents’ concerns was heightened.
PFC partnered with Cortico to pull perspectives from seven Local Voices Network conversations about the relationship between law enforcement and communities, featuring 48 residents, in addition to other outreach strategies, such as community listening sessions and through online surveys. The stories shared in those conversations were immensely powerful – detailing experiences with police brutality, lack of community trust, and racial segregation in Madison.
In addition to offering city officials the opportunity to hear from residents who they might not otherwise, a new tech-assisted sense-making process was piloted to surface themes of lived experience related to public safety and policing. These themes were then systematically summarized and translated into suggested interview questions. Several of these questions were used in public interviews of the final four candidates for Police Chief. This approach demonstrates the possibility of bringing people and technology together in a new way for a more inclusive and transparent process of leadership selection. The PFC project represents how community voices can be included in public processes in meaningful and healing ways.
Working with Cortico taught us that anecdotes and stories have information in them that is community input. It’s real and it’s valid.Jacquelyn Boggess, Chairperson of Police and Fire Commission
Jerome shared his perspective on how the criminal justice system lacks just that — justice.