Former Madison Police Chief David Couper delivers a statement to the Police and Fire Commission.
Nathan and Amelia Royko Maurer have, by their own admission, hounded the Madison Police Department in the 11 months since Officer Stephen Heimsness shot and killed their friend and roommate Paul Heenan on Nov. 9, 2012.
Yet at public input session on Monday about the topic of a new police chief, the couple was conspicuously silent, legally barred from communicating with the five members of the Madison Board of Police and Fire Commissioners because of their complaint against Heimsness with the board.
But many of the nine speakers picked up where the Royko Maurers left off: concerned with officers' use of deadly force and the department's ability to foster goodwill in the community with the departure of Chief Noble Wray on Sep. 27.
"A year ago, I wouldn't have been here," said Madison resident Heidi Kramer. "Over the last year, my confidence and trust [in my police force] is deeply shaken."
The department has taken the most flak for the death of Heenan, who was shot after he drunkenly tried entering a neighbor's house. But the fatal shootings of Brent Brozek, a mentally ill former cab driver, on May 17, and Charles Carll, who police were told was suicidal following a domestic disturbance, on Aug. 17, have also alarmed community members.
Former MPD Captain Cheri Maples, who was in the running for police chief in 2004, said that the three deaths have created an "unacceptable" threshold for the use of force in the eyes of the community.
"I can't think of anything that brings down the trust of a community more than fear that the police will be using deadly force in situations that don't call for it," she said.
Speakers offered reasons for why the board should look for a new chief within the department, as they did when selecting Wray in 2004, or outside of it, as when Richard Williams and David Couper were selected.
Madison resident Rosemary Lee, for example, said that a chief who came from the ranks would be better attuned to the challenges of the department. But Gregory Gelembiuk said that a newcomer would be better suited to innovate.
Couper was mentioned fondly by numerous participants, as was the service of former Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs -- who was suggested as a possible candidate by Gregory Phillips, a retired law enforcement officer who spoke.
Couper, who attended the meeting, served as police chief from 1973 to 1993. An advocate of community policing and non-violent conflict resolution, he said the next chief should shake things up.
"To appoint a chief of police ... committed to keeping things the way they are would take this department backwards," Couper said.
According to commission president George Kamperschroer, the board will review any internal interest in the position before deciding to widen the search.
The Royko Maurers would like to see a candidate from outside the department's leadership -- either from the ranks of patrol officers or from a force outside of Madison.
The couple is holding a police chief discussion of their own on Oct. 16 from 7-9 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 1609 University Ave. The panel will include Maples, UW-Madison Law School professor and policing expert Michael Scott and state Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison).
They hope to dive deeper into the use of deadly force and whether law enforcement should investigate its own members when such force is used. They also plan to cover other community law enforcement issues.
The actions of the police officers who used deadly force were cleared by the department in the shootings of Brozek and Carll. Heimsness, who was cleared by the police and Dane County District Ismael Ozanne's office, resigned from the police force, effective Nov. 23.
Dane County Judge John Albert issued an injunction Sept. 10 on the complaint filed by the Royko Maurers against Heimsness until after Heimsness leaves the force. The officer still faces a federal civil rights suit filed by Heenan's estate.