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Chief of Police Hiring Process

By Heather Morgan, Co-founder

I Vote Madison's remarks [00:37:29]

Mayor Finley's response [00:54:00]

Councilperson Spear's response [00:57:44]

Last month Police Chief David Jernigan announced his retirement. It was reported by the media that his retirement would take place mid January. The city had not addressed what would happen at the time of Chief Jernigan's retirement, so I Vote Madison took the opportunity at last night's city council meeting to present questions and make requests on behalf of the citizens of Madison. Here is the content of Co-founder Heather Morgan's presentation:


I’m here representing I Vote Madison. I will speak again tonight about transparency and public participation, but this time as it pertains to the police department. Our police chief announced his retirement recently, so the community naturally has questions about who the city will choose to lead the department. Will a new chief be promoted from within the department? Does the city have a timetable for assigning a new chief? What is the city looking for in its new chief? What is the process? Will residents be able to provide input? Will residents be offered information about how many candidates were interviewed and whether they were from inside the city or state or from elsewhere?

I Vote Madison requests that council and the mayor:

--Be open about the hiring process

--Communicate with residents during the process

--Actively provide ways for the public to voice their opinions and concerns related to this important hire

Public participation can include surveying residents and hosting public forums, such town hall meetings and small listening sessions. We do hope that several avenues will be made available and not be limited to, for example, an online survey.

One suggestion for how the city can use public input in a meaningful way is to use it to create a candidate profile. A profile like one sees as part of a job description that states what qualities the city of Madison is looking for in its new police chief.

Every city has its own challenges and it’s own history. Building trust, especially the trust of Black residents and residents of color, is a challenge our new Madison police chief will be facing. Residents have not forgotten about Suresbhai Patel and Dana Fletcher. We have not forgotten the ways Madison City and Madison County responded, or maybe didn’t respond, to the community following these two tragic events. One of I Vote Madison’s core values is fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion. We hope that the city holds these same values when searching for a new police chief. One thing our organization wants in a new police chief is the willingness to directly address these issues so that trust can be rebuilt. We thank Chief Jernigan for fully staffing the crisis intervention team and for creating a professional training division. I Vote Madison wants the new Madison Police Chief to continue to provide training and education when it comes to diversity, bias, de-escalation and racial justice.


Mayor Finley and Councilperson Spears used some of their speaking time during the meeting to respond. The mayor outlined the hiring process and let us know that in the next couple of days someone within the department will be appointed to act as chief until the city hires a replacement for Chief Jernigan. The search will be nationwide. The city's Department of Human Resources is currently preparing the job description. After the mayor, and then the council, approves the description, it will be released. The mayor said that Madison residents may send in their thoughts about a new police chief now before the job description is finalized.

The mayor and councilperson Spears said it will be an open process and one that is similar to hiring a school superintendent. The city will choose 10-12 candidates to interview. This round of interviews will be conducted by a small, internal committee consisting of the mayor, council, and the police department. Councilperson Spears explained that the reason this first round of interviews is not open to the public is to protect the candidate's privacy as it relates to their current employer. Out of those 10-12 candidates, 3-5 will be chosen, and those interviews will be done publicly.

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