September 7, 2015
Dear Chief Mike Koval:
I have been following with both interest and growing concern recent reports about Brandi Grayson, a leader of Madison's Young Gifted and Black Coalition, and her dealings with the Madison Police Department. Ms. Grayson and her allies claim that she is being singled out and harassed because of her outspoken criticism of your department's undbending policy on the use of deadly force and the excessive number of arrests and detentions of Madison's residents of color.
An objective observer might agree that Grayson has offered valid arguments on both scores; and while it is certainly true that she often indulges in strong rhetoric and even hyberbole to drive home her points, this speaks to the frustration she and many others feel about a society that for decades has failed to come to grips with its racial inequities. Brandi Grayson is provocative, passionate and articulate. I have heard her speak on several occasions, including as a guest presenter at the First Unitarian Society of Madison. where I have served as Senior Minister for twenty-seven years. She is prepared to practice civil disobedience, but has never advocated nor employed violent tactics. I do not always agree with her, but I do believe she has a right to her opinions, stated publicly, even if public servants like you and your officers find them distasteful.
Chief Koval, you have told the press that you do not believe that such "targeting" has taken place and that the examples Ms. Grayson cited were the result of "miscommunication," "a volatile crowd scene" and, mere "coincidence." At the same time you stated that "we cannot sit idly by and permit inflammatory rhetoric to go unchecked as though it was 'fact.'" The latter sounds supicously like an admission of culpability.
I have lived in this community for over a quarter of a century and in the past have had nothing but admiration for "Madison's Finest." I am not passing judgement here, but Ms. Grayson's reports do raise serious questions. I trust that you will take every necessary step to ensure that even your critics are treated with the respect and forbearance that all citizens in a free and open society deserve.
The Rev. Dr. Michael A. Schuler
Senior Minister, The First Unitarian Society of Madison, WI