By Todd Richmond
Within hours of a white officer shooting an unarmed black man, the police chief of Wisconsin’s capital city was praying with the man’s grandmother, hoping to strike a conciliatory tone and avoid the riots that last year rocked Ferguson, Missouri.
Chief Mike Koval said he knows Madison is being watched across the nation since 19-year-old Tony Robinson’s death Friday evening, and he has gone out of his way to avoid what he once called Ferguson’s “missteps.”
“Folks are angry, resentful, mistrustful, disappointed, shocked, chagrined. I get that,” Koval said Saturday. “People need to tell me squarely how upset they are with the Madison Police Department.”
The contrasts with Ferguson are many.
While Ferguson police initially gave little information about the shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old, unarmed black man, Koval rushed to the home of Robinson’s mother. She didn’t want to meet with him, he said, but he talked and prayed with Robinson’s grandmother in the driveway for 45 minutes.
It took a week for Ferguson to release the name of the officer who shot Brown. Koval announced the name of the officer involved in Madison, Matt Kenny, the day after the shooting. He volunteered to reporters that the officer had been in a previous fatal shooting in 2007, and that he had been cleared of wrongdoing.