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Quattrone Center releases Sentinel Event Review analysis of the Madison Police Department’s response to the George Floyd protests

November 17, 2021

A joint community stakeholder group generated 69 recommendations for tactical and environmental improvements to the Madison Police Department.

The Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice recently completed a Sentinel Event Review (SER) conducted by community stakeholders and representatives of the Madison (Wisconsin) Police Department (MPD) reviewing MPD’s responses to protests in the summer of 2020, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. The stakeholder group generated 69 recommendations designed to improve MPD’s response to future protests and provide support for the First Amendment freedoms of the community in atmospheres of physical and emotional safety.

The SER examined protests that took place in Madison from May 30-August 25, 2020, focusing on moments of violence or substantial property damage. It used processes developed by the Quattrone Center and engaged a diverse group of community members and MPD representatives to identify implementable recommendations for systemic improvement.

John Hollway, Executive Director of the Quattrone Center John Hollway, Executive Director of the Quattrone Center“Last summer, the MPD, like many police departments across the country, faced the challenge of how to support First Amendment rights to protest while ensuring the safety of communities during the mass demonstrations that erupted across America in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. The escalation of violence that occurred formed the impetus for MPD to request a Sentinel Event Review,” said John Hollway C’92, MAPP’18, Associate Dean, Lecturer in Law, and Executive Director of the Quattrone Center, who specializes in conducting SERs in criminal justice.

“The Quattrone SER process was extremely valuable in bringing members of the department together with members of the community to talk about difficult and challenging topics,” said MPD Chief Shon Barnes. “These conversations were instrumental in helping MPD identify areas for improvement.”

MPD invited a diverse group of community and law enforcement stakeholders (the Stakeholder Group) to conduct the SER, identify contributing factors, and generate recommendations for reform. These individuals came from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. MPD voluntarily provided the Quattrone Center with more than 1,600 pages of documents related to the protests, as well as more than 625 hours of closed-circuit television (CCTV) video, more than 30 hours of radio transmissions, and access to officers who participated in the protests at all levels of the organization, from patrol officers to the Interim Chief of Police. This review was supplemented by interviews from over 50 MPD officers who participated in the specific events reviewed and by statements from over 140 Madison community members regarding the protests, and by a review of publicly available information available on the Internet and social media from various sources.

The law firm of Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP and its e-data team provided thousands of pro bono hours to organize and review this data in a systematic way.

“The Morgan Lewis eData team leveraged cutting-edge technology and dynamic workflows to search, sort, and analyze thousands of data points critical to developing a more comprehensive, multi-perspective picture of the protests that occurred last year in Madison and Kenosha during the spring and summer of 2020,” said Morgan Lewis partner Scott Milner. “We were honored to collaborate with the Quattrone Center, MPD, and community stakeholders to help inform its recommendations and reporting.”

“This process has not only highlighted what needs to be done in our community, but it also helps us to reflect on how much work still needs to be done, and why effective training is needed – for police, members of the community, politicians, parents, and leaders of our school system,” said Anthony Cooper, CEO of Focus Interruption and Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Reentry Services with Nehemiah: Center for Urban Leadership Development. “The only way we can effect change in these difficult times and with these issues in our community is when we come together and work in the same space, and where every person’s voice and experience is welcome. We need to have all perspectives at the table – including people who have been incarcerated – to fully understand the breadth of what people are dealing with day to day, especially with their involvement with law enforcement.”

The 69 recommendations generated by the SER process looked at communications, tactics, and equipment available to MPD, including:

  • Rebuilding relationships that have eroded in recent years between MPD and community members;

  • Improving communication between MPD and protest organizers before, during, and after protest events;

  • Expanding protest facilitation training for all officers and incident command training for all senior officers;

  • Creating community dialogue representatives (CDR) who can improve communication on behalf of protesters during protests;

  • Refining tactics for MPD officers responding to protest events, to maximize mobility and minimize uses of force;

  • Tracking uses of force carefully and reviewing them promptly; and

  • Ensuring transparency during and after crowd events via body-worn cameras.

The MPD SER was conducted as part of the Sentinel Events Initiative (SEI) National Demonstration Collaboration grant, awarded to the Quattrone Center by the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the National Institute of Justice to empower jurisdictions to build capacity and ultimately conduct their own reviews, which will mitigate future risk and reduce costs. As part of this grant, the Quattrone Center has conducted SERs in Philadelphia, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Santa Clara County.

Read the full report.

Read more about the pathbreaking research of the Quattrone Center.