Do Madison cops need a $2 million facility?

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I did reporting on this issue because I had seen very little coverage in the press. The issue strikes at the heart of an ongoing debate in Madison over safety, with most political actors supporting increased attention on law enforcement to prevent burglaries and assaults, and a vocal minority on the left that sees an increase in police presence as a reactionary response to one of the symptoms of poverty, neglected schools, drug addiction, ghettoization etc.

Therefore, the mayor’s proposal to include a new $2 million police facility in this year’s capital budget was bound to create some controversy. Without the background information it might appear that the mayor is coddling the cops at a time when every other city agency is going to be forced to make painful cuts.

However, my preliminary analysis (I like the sound of that) is that the spending is probably reasonable. Joel Plant, Mayor Dave’s liason to the MPD, explained to me that historically police officers have done their 6 months of “pre-field” training at an MATC facility, which is fairly standard throughout the state – many cops do their training at technical colleges. During that time the MPD was a tenant of MATC, and paid the college rent.

Unfortunately, MATC dropped a bombshell on the cops a couple years ago: they were going to demolish the facility. MPD subsequently resorted to temporary housing, which, according to Plant, is inadequate. There is not enough room for physical training, there’s no room for maneuvers etc.

Something important that has been left out of the coverage in the press: the city is not looking to build a new complex, it is looking to buy one. Plant emphasized the opportunity the city has to exploit the low prices in the real estate market now and get a complex that will endure for years. Moreover, the purchase is consistent with Dave’s pledge not to put in additional construction projects into the capital budget.

Granted, that is only one side of the story. Are there others I should know about?

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