What Kind of Policing Does the Public Want?

by Safety Connection

The Wisconsin Professional Police Association (WPPA) released its 9th annual Wisconsin Public Survey this week:

Since 2013, the Wisconsin Professional Police Association has been the only law enforcement group in the country to consistently commission objective public polling on issues related to policing in our communities. As Wisconsin’s largest law enforcement group, we have undertaken this effort out of a genuine desire to better understand the communities we serve and a commitment to be part of the solution to the problems that we collectively face as a state. Conducted annually by the St. Norbert College Strategic Research Institute, the WPPA’s polling has helped us take a leading and constructive role in the public dialogue on these issues.

As calls for major police reform pervade every level of government, this year’s survey effectively pierces the divisive rhetoric which often suggests that supporting the cause for social justice and supporting the police are mutually exclusive. While both illustrative and concerning, the results of the WPPA’s 2021 poll shed some much-needed light on the public’s views towards law enforcement and the type of policing they want to see from their local agencies.

The results found that 79% of Wisconsin respondents strongly or somewhat approved of the way their “local police force is handling its job.” And “keeping communities safe from crime” was the highest community priority followed by “improving education” and “maintaining roads and highways.”

In Madison last weekend, MPD Captain Mike Hanson worked in patrol and decided to walk in some of the South District neighborhoods (Penn Park/Fisher/Baird and Lake Point Drive/Waunona Woods) to visit with residents in person.

“I was uncertain of what I would encounter as a Madison Police Captain walking the neighborhoods in uniform. There were not any outward signs of not wanting police in the neighborhood, not one. Everyone I encountered greeted me with pleasantries and thanked me for walking the neighborhood.”

-MPD South District Captain Mike Hanson

He continued: “Each car that passed me either waved or nodded. This is opposite of the narrative seen on social media or on television each night. Below are the highlights of my time on foot patrol:

One man who was fixing his car stopped myself and Officer Jack Graziano to chat it up. He went down memory lane of all the “old Madison cops” he knew and recited their names. He said he had been in trouble in the past, but now at 61 years-old had all of that behind him. He had positive things to say about MPD and upon receiving my business card said he would call if he needed us.

We encountered a woman doing yardwork and she asked us how we were doing. This was all with smiles and a brief conversation.

The beautiful aroma of a BBQ in Penn Park lured us to pay a visit. The folks having the BBQ chatted with us, thanked us for our service and showed us their food that could be sold at top dollar in a restaurant. They were proud of their grill and told me to enjoy Mother’s Day with my wife and mother.

One woman yelled 50 yards for us to come to her window as she thought Officer Graziano was a different Officer as they both have bushy beards. After talking with her, she thanked us for being on foot in her neighborhood.

As I was on Lake Point Drive a male stopped to ask me a question. We chatted for 20-30 minutes about his domestic relations, child issues and the need to help return a 13 year-old back to school because he had not attended for three years. I was in a school play in 3rd grade, but never thought people would recognize me from that; but oddly enough as I was talking with this African American male on the sidewalk, two white people across the street got their phone out to film us or take a picture. The sign of the times of many of law enforcement – nationwide.

I had a lot of fun on foot patrol going from ambassador to mechanic to BBQ judge to a lending an ear.

The reality is that during this experience and countless others each day, your police department has positive relations in the community. Our residents, in all neighborhoods, appreciate the police, call us when there is a crisis and expect high-level professional service. We have standards in Madison that we are always building upon. Your Police Officers are committed to our neighborhoods and are committed to providing you a high-level of police service every shift. You will see us walking the neighborhoods again as we are anxious to do so and you will see us at events whenever we are invited. Let’s enjoy each other and learn more about each other! Stay safe!!

–Mike Hanson, Captain – Madison Police South District.

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