Five days after a white police officer shot and killed 19-year-old Tony Robinson, an unarmed black man, in Madison, Wi., protesters are staging large rallies to demand that charges be filed, NPR reports. Officers are rallying at the Wisconsin State Capitol on behalf of the police. While the community response has been strikingly different from what happened in Ferguson, Mo., last summer, many in Madison say stark racial disparities still played a role in the shooting. Blacks are only eight percent of the 250,000 people who live in the college town. Ferguson has only 20,000 residents, but blacks make up two-thirds of the population.
Despite its reputation as a liberal city, the arrest rate for young black men in Madison is six times higher than it is for their white counterparts. That’s also three times higher than the national average. Still, law Prof. Davis Harris of the University of Pittsburgh says Madison already is using a model aimed at promoting positive relationships between police and minority communities. “Many police departments will talk about community policing … will dedicate one officer or one small unit of officers to community policing, but Madison’s approach has been more pervasive, and for a longer period of time,” he says. Last week’s shooting raises questions about how effective those policies have been. Police Chief Mike Koval is promising to step up efforts to reach out.