Like mushrooms, Department Of Justice inquiries into police departments continue to shoot up from the fertile debris of their sins. The largely silent, people powered movement has touched numerous cities including LA, Chicago, Ferguson and now, Milwaukee. A recent DOJ-hosted meeting discussing a probe of my hometown’s department, however, seemed bitter sweet. Accounts detailed by the dozens of attendee’s attest to the complicated, daunting concept of effective police reform implementation.
DOJ payed a visit to the Milwaukee Public Library, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service reports, specifically to hear public input. Populating the audience, sadly, were family members of the numerous unarmed citizens killed by MPD over the years. In attendance, alongside several parents of slain children, was Nate Hamilton–brother of shooting victim Dontre Hamilton. The floor, MNNS reports, was open to all willing to attest to the human cost of MPD’s practices, policies, and “bad apples”.
“I have suffered for a long, long time”, says Victoria Rodriguez whose son, Samuel, was killed in 2002. “These officers”, she declares, “this system, doesn’t seem to realize the pain they bring on family members. And, it dosen’t die the next day–it stays with you forever.” Many others matched Victoria’s intensity, frustration, anger, and tear jerking genuineness.
Interestingly enough, Milwaukee PD’s chief, Ed Flynn, reputedly requested DOJ’s input on his departments performance. According to MNNS, the move signals the genesis of a “collaborative reform” process Flynn’s so-called “troops” will undergo. By participating, Milwaukee’s policing force will receive initial DOJ recommendations for changes or improvements. Flynn’s department would then have to undergo further evaluations months later to ensure compliance with reforms. The catch, MNNS reports, is that reforms aren’t legally binding in any manner. In effect, success depends on MPD putting an effort forward to change and being honest about it.
Perhaps this is why most of the meeting’s attendees seemed devoid of faith that the process will change anything. The federal government has long known of Milwaukee PD’s crimes, nothing has ever been done. In fact one attendee, a retired MPD officer of 24 years, recalled a visit by the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. EEOC’s report, MNNS reports, “found patterns and practices involving the Milwaukee Police Department that were bias [and] racially motivated.” Again, nothing was done about it.
Citizens also spoke of murder, rape, intimidation, and profiling, mostly focused towards low income minority areas. According to MNNS, blacks are 7 times more likely than whites to get stopped by police in Milwaukee. In a city already considered one of the most segregated in the nation, that stat should give perspective. Chief Flynn was also tenaciously criticized by the audience, and rightly so. It’s worth noting that Flynn did request and then submit to these inquiry, and even attended the hearing to be criticized. Whether this represents a cooperative attitude with the people or a conflict of interest for DOJ remains to be seen.
I personally welcome DOJ’s investigation efforts in my city for one main reason–press coverage. The last year or so has seen an explosion in press interest in police methodology, not just isolated stints of brutality. Such a spotlight is burning, and I’d prefer to let it singe MPD until it’s will to commit such atrocities is but glass. It also affects departments in the blast radius, like Wauwatosa PD. For decades Milwaukee’s police department has been WPD’s jupiter, absorbing all press coverage. It would be a delight to see Wauwatosa PD too under federal scrutiny, and then subjected to people-powered reform.
*READ MORE ABOUT POLICE REFORM HERE AT COPBLOCK.ORG*