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Monday, September 15, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 57.0° F  A Few Clouds
The Paper
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A force to be reckoned with

In our Nov. 20 issue, introducing Giving, I wrote: "The recent spate of raindrops will, I promise you, soon turn to snowflakes. Then it will certainly look more like the season to be jolly." Am I a prophet or what?

I joke. I am no prophet. Anyone who's spent time in these environs knows that weather events such as we have just experienced are inevitable. And I wouldn't characterize the reaction to our snowy bounty as exactly "jolly." However, the influx of flakes did profoundly change the pace of things, you'll have to admit.

But while most of us coped as best we could, and hunkered down at home when we couldn't, some folks don't have that option. Some folks have to go to work because they are essential to the community infrastructure. Like the police.

How the police get to be the police in Madison, Wis., is the topic of our cover story this week. The process is limned by contributor Josh Wimmer, who uses the progression of Sgt. Mike Koval, "The Cop Who Trains the Cops," to describe the program and philosophy of producing Madison police officers. The philosophy is not without its detractors, as has been the case since the days of David Couper, the "progressive" chief who set the MPD on its present course three decades ago.

While horrific crime and forensic investigation are the stuff of TV cop dramas, the reality is more mundane. The 400-plus officers of the Madison police department spend most of their time interacting with the public or, as is often the case, refereeing the interactions between members of the public on quotidian matters. In addition, an increasingly diversified population requires a diversified police force. Part of Koval's responsibilities is recruiting candidates for such a department.

There is no sense pretending that police officers and citizens are on equal footing when their inclinations clash. After all, police have the weight of law, a certain amount of physical license and loaded weapons on their side of any conflict. So it's good that the inclination toward the use of force is mitigated by respect for citizens' rights. It produces a force that the citizens can respect rather than fear.

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