Madison mayor apologizes for comments made in video thanking police officers

MADISON -- Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway is walking back comments she made in a video that was recorded as a way for her to thank the city’s police officers for their work during the coronavirus pandemic and the recent protests and violence that erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death, WMTV reported.

In an apology posted on the City of Madison’s website, Rhodes-Conway reiterated her commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement and said she “failed to center this in her message to the police department.” She went on to acknowledge the video may have damaged her relationship with the Black community:

"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.

"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."

In the video to Madison police officers, which was shared in the pro-MPD “We Stand With The Madison Police Department” Facebook group, Rhodes-Conway told the officers she recognized her focus on community needs meant she forgot to recognize and show her appreciation for law enforcement.

“I know you are working hard and doing an amazing job under unbelievably hard circumstances and I thank you for your service,” she said in the video.

Rhodes-Conway also used the video to sympathize with the officers’ efforts during the protests, agreeing that standing outside in heavy gear while people insult your profession must be “absolutely infuriating” and “frightening” when they’re in harm’s way and people are throwing rocks as well as other objects at them.

“It must be agonizing to work so many years to build relationships around our city; to be as committed as I know you are to community policing and to still be criticized for not doing enough,” she continued in the video.

In her apology, Rhodes-Conway stressed she is “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.”

She conceded she may make more “missteps along the way as a white woman learning how to facilitate such change,” noting how her race may make it difficult for her to see the institutional biases that have favored her throughout her life. However, she promised to learn from those mistakes.