–submitted by Jocelyn Riley; photo by Valerie Johnson
Former Rotarian Noble Wray spoke at the April 12 Downtown Rotary meeting at the Park Hotel on the topic “From Leading the Madison Police Department to Leading the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s Policing Practices and Accountability Initiative: What I have Learned about Community Policing.” Wray served as the Madison Police Department’s Chief of Police from 2004 to 2013. After his retirement, Wray was asked by the Obama administration to lead a national U.S. Department of Justice taskforce on policing practices.
Wray began his remarks by asking for a moment of silence in memory of the Wisconsin State Trooper who died on the job this week. Then he asked “How do you change an institution?” He cited previous commissions that attempted to “reform” police work. But we are still faced with the age-old, intractable problems of poverty, limited access to housing, and discrimination. Wray urged that changes in policing be driven by transformation rather than reform. “Reform comes from the outside,” he said, “as a result of something that went wrong.” He said that transformation, on the other hand, comes from inside. “We have to be constantly improving,” he said.
Wray said that in order to transform police work, “courageous police leadership” is needed, as well as “rank-and-file support.” Wray also said that the road to improving policing always involves community-oriented policing and that it can’t come in a top-down approach from the federal government. “Washington should be the catalyst to make sure that change happens at the local level.”
If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.