Game-Day Officers to Face Extra Checks at Wisconsin

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The University of Wisconsin Police Department will require an additional vetting for officers from around the state who work UW football games at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

As reported by the Wisconsin State Journal, UWPD chief Kristen Roman said Friday that officers from other agencies will need to prove their performance histories don't include complaints regarding excessive use of force or violations of civil rights before they can join the local force at and around the stadium. UWPD also will add de-escalation practices to training materials required for the additional officers.

UWPD recruits officers from outside Madison to meet the staffing levels needed in and around Badgers home football games. The UW athletic department announced last week that it is preparing for a return to full crowds at Camp Randall this fall.

Roman announced the changes at a meeting of the UW Athletic Board. They were a result of a joint review by the police department and UW athletics that was commissioned last September in the wake of a nationwide focus on racial disparities in policing. UWPD public information officer Marc Lovicott didn't disclose after the review was announced in September how many officers from other jurisdictions are employed for Badgers events other than saying that "police and security staffing is robust." 

Roman said the department has applied local standards in selecting officers in the past and has rejected some from other agencies. Additional background checks on officers' history and cultural competencies are new after the review, she said.

"What we have done is tuning into and responding to what we have seen across the country around questions of police abuse, promoting racial equity and justice, and wanting to make sure that we were using the opportunity to apply that particular lens to how we were approaching enlisting support from other agencies to police game days," she said.

The vetting process now will include documenting patterns of complaints, complaints on use of force and violations of civil rights, Roman told the Athletic Board. Authorities from the officers' agencies will have to sign off to verify those marks don't appear on their performance history.

Training for guest officers also will include materials on police bias, impartial policing and mental health crisis de-escalation.

"Particularly the complaint history, I don't think we're going to disqualify many people using that because I think that's something we've always been aware of anyway in our vetting process," Roman said. "But the additional training and an ability to demonstrate that may for some create a sense of, well, that's more time and effort than I think it's worth."

Other campus police departments around the Big Ten have asked for UW to share its templates, Roman said.

"I think we're leading the way in the Big Ten on making these specific kinds of changes," she said. "But we're always open to hearing what other campuses are doing and learning from them as well."

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