Stephanie Bradley Wilson worked for Madison Police Department for 31 years – every role from an undercover officer to neighborhood officer to shift commander and lieutenant supervising detectives. In January, she retired and by the end of February, she was hired by Common Wealth to be the Project Manager for the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Initiative.
She doesn’t see this new role as being too different from some of the roles she enjoyed playing when she was a police officer, especially when she was involved with community engagement activities such as summer programs, seat belt initiatives, Christmas giveaways and Juneteenth. It also fits with her commitment to service in the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (of which she has been a member since 1976) and being active at Mt. Zion Baptist Church.
Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation project is an 18 month planning grant awarded to the Madison Police Department in late 2015. The project’s purpose is to create a comprehensive public safety and revitalization plan for the Raymond Road corridor neighborhoods by obtaining input from residents, local organizations and service providers, businesses, and government agencies to develop the plan. The plan will be used to apply for possible implementation funding from the U.S. Department of Justice and/or other sources.
The Raymond Road target area is located in southwest Madison. It consists of several neighborhoods: Meadowood, Prairie Hills, Greentree and Park Ridge/Park Edge. The community, made up of 8,800 people, consists of single family homes as well as several large apartment complexes and townhouses.
Stephanie has high hopes of getting residents involved in the process in a way where everyone is respected, and hopes to facilitate a process where everyone’s voices are heard.
“I prefer to see the glass half full,” reflects Stephanie when asked about some of the divisions of trust in the Madison community and the Madison Police Department. “There are things that haven’t gone well ever since police organizations were started in the 1800s. Black communities in urban areas didn’t receive police services at first. I remember images from my childhood from the Civil Rights movement on television where blacks were being hosed down with water, police dogs were used in attack mode, and people were battered with billy clubs.”
“There are trust gaps between police and the black community, police and the Muslim community, police and the gay community. This won’t change overnight, but we can build on the strengths we have. We can’t say there aren’t any strengths in the community – that is far from the truth.”
There are about a dozen sites throughout the USA that are in the planning phase of the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Initiative. Each site has a researcher attached who is supposed to be more of an active participant than academic. Dr. Jeffrey Lewis of Sustaining Natural Circles, LLC will serve as the grant’s research partner to support participatory, evidence-based approaches to gathering and using data to help develop strategies for the planning process. Dr. Lewis will be able to help share evidence-influenced practices that have worked elsewhere in order to make decisions that produce a positive impact.
Stephanie sees the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Initiative as a way to create something that is sustainable with lasting positive impacts, as well as a way to cultivate leadership and help leverage other resources to address issues in the Raymond Road corridor.