Satya Rhodes-Conway, the mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, has apologized on video for an earlier video she made thanking the city’s police officers, saying her actions praising the cops may have done “irreparable harm.”
She also wrote a lengthy statement to go along with the apology in a blog post. “Black lives matter. I believe deeply in this and yet I failed to center this in my message to the police department. I realize that this action has done deep harm to the Black community and for this, I apologize,” she wrote of her previous praise of the city’s Police Department, which she made over officers’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and George Floyd protests and riots.
Watch the apology video here:
In the apology blog post, the mayor continued:
I realize I may have done irreparable harm with my actions. I realize too that I may have permanently lost any trust I may have had. But whether or not I regain trust, know that I am deeply committed to advancing the work of equitable systems change. It’s why I ran for office, and it is the work that I will strive to do. I cannot promise that I will not make missteps along the way as a White woman learning how to facilitate such change, realizing that I cannot fully see the system that has been built up to benefit me and others like me. But I can promise that I will learn from those mistakes and I will strive to center equity in every decision.
While my learning and the work continue, in efforts to be transparent and have the community hold me to account, I post regular communications on my blog that I would encourage others to read to learn what we’re doing about criminal justice reform, economic development and community wealth building, affordable housing, and more—efforts to address the inequities that our existing systems have perpetuated.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Mayor Was Apologizing for a Previous Video Addressing the Police Department
The Facebook group, We Stand With the Madison Police Department, posted the first video (above), writing,
IF YOU KNOW YOUR POLICE ARE DOING WELL GET OUT THERE & SAY IT PUBLICLY. STOP KOWTOWING. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF ON WHY YOU FELT YOU HAD TO PASSWORD PROTECT THIS VIDEO. ‘It must be agonizing to have worked so hard for so many years to build relationships around our community, to be as committed as I know you are to community policing and to still be criticized for not doing enough.’ ‘..You are not what the protesters say you are. I know that.’
Here’s what she said in that video.
Hello MPD family, Mayor Satya here. These past few months have been extraordinary times in this city’s history, and the past few days have taken us even farther into uncharted territory. We’re all living through a pandemic, which has put all of you in more danger than usual. You have had to adapt how you work in incredible ways, and now we have unprecedented protests, violence, and looting. None of us asked for these challenges. And we are all learning as we go. You must be exhausted. I know I am, and you’re facing a much more difficult situation than I am. It must be absolutely infuriating to stand in heavy gear outside while listen to people constantly insult your chosen profession. It must be frightening to stand and have rocks and other things thrown at you and to be in harm’s way constantly, and it must be agonizing to have worked so hard for so many years to build relationships around our society. To be as committed as I know you are to community policing. And to still be criticized for not doing enough. I spoke with an officer in the… garage recently who said that they hope I know how hard it is and that you are not what the protesters say you are. I know that. I know that you are working hard and doing an amazing job under unbelievably hard circumstances, and I thank you for your service. In a large organization like ours, communication can be really, really hard. During times of crisis, communications often become so focused on the tasks at hand that we forget the importance of communicating about taking care of ourselves and others. I’m here talking to you today because I have come to realize that I’ve not taken the opportunity to express my gratitude for your service or to adequately acknowledge the personal and collective sacrifices that you each have made during these incredibly challenging times. I was so focused on the task of addressing the concerns of our community that I didn’t remember that you need and deserve both recognition and appreciate. So please know how I appreciate you personally, your hard work, your courage, your sacrifice, and your service. Thank you. Be safe. Be well, and please take care of yourself and each other.
After that video, some people criticized the mayor. Urban Triage, described by WKOW-TV as “a community group dedicated to empowering black lives,” shared a copy of the video and wrote, “Does this sound like a woman you can trust to create the job description for the police auditor and supervise the auditor?”
According to her website bio, Rhodes-Conway “is the 58th Mayor of Madison. She has extensive experience in local policy and practice, having worked with mayors across the country for over a decade, and serving three terms on the Madison Common Council. Elected in 2019, she is the city’s second female mayor and the first out LGBTQ person to serve as Mayor of Madison.”
Her bio continues,
Rhodes-Conway was born in New Mexico and grew up in Ithaca, New York. She has degrees from Smith College and the University of California – Irvine. She moved to Madison in 2002 and has lived here ever since.
Rhodes-Conway was the Managing Director of the Mayors Innovation Project and a senior associate at the COWS (Center on Wisconsin Strategy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for 13 years. She worked with cities across the country to implement innovative policy that promotes environmental and economic sustainability and builds strong, democratically accountable communities. During her time at UW, she researched and wrote extensively about local policy that promotes sustainability, equity and democracy. Rhodes-Conway served on the Board of the UniverCity Alliance and is a member of AFT Local 223.