Where Campus and City Meet

The UW–Madison Police Department (UWPD) has long partnered with the City of Madison Police Department (MPD) to address safety concerns that impact our campus community. I know this first-hand from my many years of service with MPD and in particular during my time there as a commander in the Central District. Since joining the UWPD, I have certainly gained new insights and a better understanding of the unique challenges that exist as we work to ensure safety for our students who live, work, and recreate just off-campus in the areas where campus and city meet. Today I’m pleased to share with you a new initiative we’re starting in the downtown area.

I often receive questions from students and parents who are confused – understandably so – about where and why jurisdictional boundaries exist between the two police departments and how they impact police response and process. These challenges are not unique to UW–Madison as most campuses across the country are embedded within municipalities with separate police departments serving each. How best to address these challenges is unique to each campus and surrounding city.

Over the past few years, UWPD has worked to identify openings for greater visibility, engagement, and resource allocation in off-campus areas, to bolster collaboration with MPD where possible and to cultivate consistency in approach through several initiatives to include:

  • Off-Campus Alert program to provide emergency incident information to our off-campus communities above and beyond our standard, federally required WiscAlert system
  • Expanded 1st 45 Days Alcohol Education and Enforcement programming to include Langdon St. neighborhood
  • Working with MPD, City Attorney’s Office, Mayor’s Office, and City Municipal Court, to implement a pilot that would allow UWPD officers to issue select City Ordinance citations in off-campus areas
  • Increased UWPD staff engagement with off-campus student organizations – including the many service, social, religious, and housing locations on Langdon Street

Many of these initiatives are in response to feedback we have received from our campus community, and in particular from our students through a variety of surveys, including the University Health Services “The Color of Drinking Survey” and the Association of American Universities “Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct Report.” We know our work is not – and will never be – done. We are committed to breaking down barriers, focusing on engagement and inclusion, and creating and strengthening relationships with stakeholders – regardless of campus borders and boundaries.

We recognize the need for specific, focused, and dedicated police personnel in campus-affiliated neighborhoods, and to this end we have been exploring for many months now the feasibility of creating a dedicated officer position to liaise with our students in the Langdon St., lower State St., and 600 University Ave. corridor. With MPD’s recent announcement of the intended removal of their Langdon St. Neighborhood Officer, our efforts have now taken on the potential for even greater impact than we’d initially envisioned. And MPD’s stated end date of February 2020 has certainly accelerated our timeline for development and implementation of this proposed position.

As such, I am excited to announce plans to create a UWPD Downtown Liaison Officer position to serve a geographic area consistent with our off campus alert area. This area is bordered by Lake Mendota, Lake Street, Gorham Street, and Wisconsin Ave. Similar to our other community officer positions, the UWPD Downtown Liaison Officer will work to engage with students and other campus partners, connect students with necessary resources, and provide a link between UWPD and MPD for police response in this area. While the primary jurisdiction and call-for-service response for these areas will remain with the City of Madison, the UWPD Downtown Liaison Officer will have the ability to exercise specific enforcement authority as appropriate but will primarily focus efforts on building relationships, providing advocacy, and serving as an additional resource dedicated to promoting safety in our off campus community.

The responsibilities, duties, and assignments of the new UWPD Downtown Liaison Officer position are still being developed and this is where we need your help! Over the next few months, we will be working with relevant campus stakeholders, student organizations, and municipal partners to further define this position and shape community expectations. More information about opportunities to provide feedback on this effort will be shared in the next few weeks. We look forward to the process and are excited about the positive impact we expect this position will have on all our students.