Madison mayor apologizes after video leaks of her praising officers with no mention of police reform

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway admitted that she “failed to center” the message that black lives matter in a message to the Madison Police Department.
Satya Rhodes-Conway, mayor of Madison, Wisc. in 2019.
Satya Rhodes-Conway, mayor of Madison, Wisc. in 2019.Steve Apps / AP file

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By Doha Madani

The mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, apologized after video leaked of her praising local officers and sympathizing with police over the stress of recent protests without discussing the nationwide concerns for police reform.

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway walked back the comments in a new video posted Wednesday where she admits she “failed to center” the message that black lives matter in her password-protected video to the Madison Police Department.

“I realize I may have done irreparable harm with my actions,” Rhodes-Conway. “I realize too that I may have permanently lost any trust I may have had.”

She also said that she is committed to the work of “equitable” system changes.

Someone leaked a copy of Rhodes-Conway’s message to police on a page called “We Stand With The Madison Police Department,” asking why the mayor felt the need to make a video praising officers private.

In the video, Rhodes-Conway said that it must be “absolutely infuriating” and “frightening” to have their profession insulted during protests, according to NBC affiliate WMTV. She also said that she knew the officers weren’t “what the protesters say you are.”

“It must be agonizing to work so many years to build relationships around our city,” Rhodes-Conway said. “To be as committed as I know you are to community policing and to still be criticized for not doing enough."

The administrators of the Facebook page where the video was leaked posted a statement on Thursday criticizing Rhodes-Conway's walking back her initial message.

"The released video has angered all sides for its lack of sincerity," they wrote. "We hope that in the future, the Mayor can help unify the city by recognizing and praising both her citizens and employees when they are doing things right towards a better society overall. We do not believe you have to put one group down in order to lift another up. Let's all do better."

Protests that erupted around the globe in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last month have been overwhelmingly peaceful. Activists have called for nationwide reformation of police departments that prioritize accountability and transparency, while also diverting funding away from militarizing the police to social programs that bolster the community.