The City of Madison is planning to add an extra $6 million per year to the police department's budget in order to hire 40 new police officers. And Matt Kenny, the murderer of Tony Robinson, would be one of the officers assigned to train them.
This authoritarian level of policing is unnecessary in Madison - cities with comparable populations and crime rates have 60 less police officers than Madison does, yet instead of removing police presence from the city, we're adding more.
We know that police presence doesn't solve crime. A study in Columbia, Missouri showed that when police presence increased, some forms of crime went down, but other forms of crime skyrocketed - 242 more burglaries and 459 more larcenies - concluding that the statement "police presence deters crime" isn't entirely accurate. The reason that police presence isn't the answer is because increasing surveillance of high-crime neighborhoods doesn't address the root causes of the problem, which include mental health and an inescapable cycle of poverty.
To solve the problem we need to take the proposed $6 million for the added 40 police officers and reassign it to the root causes of the problem. That means investing in Black mental health, and investing in Black economic empowerment programs. With the same money we can hire up to 150 mental health workers, or assign the funding to social programs and Black employment programs in order to combat Madison's disproportionate Black child poverty rate (currently 75%) and Madison's ridiculously high Black unemployment rate (currently 25%).
We need to wake up the governmental system and the police system of Madison - so, on Friday, May 13, a day after the one year anniversary of the non-indictment of Matt Kenny, a group of about 40 protesters gathered at Cathedral Park in downtown Madison, just two blocks from the State Captiol, at 3pm, with the plan of marching to the office of Mayor Paul Soglin to demand that the city of Madison invest in communities, not cops.
The rally pulled into Fairchild Street and the protesters started marching towards the Public Safety Building, where half of the inmates are Black. A banner saying "community control over police" was hung up over the street, and a banner saying "invest in communities, not cops" was placed on the side of a parking ramp. The protesters blocked off traffic, and their voices could be heard blocks away in all directions. After marching in the streets, they entered the City County Building and chanted in front of Mayor Paul Soglin's office, demanding that the city invest in communities, not cops.
Along the way, T. Banks and Junior of Freedom Inc, as well as Sharon Irwin, the mother of Tony Robinson, made speeches.
Junior: "Being a Black teenager in Madison is hard. Tony Robinson was a teenager and he was killed by a cop...his friends who called the police to help Tony didn’t want him to be dead...I don’t want to die as a Black teenager." Junior later said, "more police is not the answer. More police doesn't solve the problem of not having homes with food and clothes. Having more police won't make us stay in school. Having more police is not going to make us think twice before trying to do something we need. MPD should not hire more cops. They should put more resources into my school so more kids can eat and get what they need. They should take the money they need for hiring more cops, and put it into Black communities. We know what we need but don't have the money to get it."
Sharon Irwin: "If we don’t start taking accountability for the things that are happening, what happened to my son will be the first of many…we don’t need more police officers, we need more community support, we need more things for these children. These kids are suffering, and this is not the answer."
T. Banks: "The violence we are having in our communities is from economic deprivation. That is that people are in such desperate need and in poverty, that in order to survive, violence is happening towards one another. That’s why we are demanding that Madison build its people and not more cops. We demand community control of the police. We demand that money used to hire the 40 new cops will be poured back into the Black community so we can get jobs, have better schools, have food, have housing, have clothes, have transportation to be able to live, and have our basic needs taken care of. This is what the community wants. Not more cops. We want community control of the police. Not surveillance or more harassment - we are only trying to survive poverty. The community wants economic opportunity so we can determine our needs and get our needs met. We don’t want no more officers trained by Matt Kenny. We don’t want there to be more Black teens killed like Tony Robinson. We don’t want more officers to just respond to crisis and violence, and then perpetuate more violence! We want resources so that we, the community, can determine the accountability to our own communities. We want to build communities, not more police."