“Community policing means officers work with residents to solve problems… But community policing was not an overarching strategy in the department…”
“A federal report examining the Milwaukee Police Department validates concerns voiced for years by residents and officers alike, according to a draft obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“The draft report is the result of a U.S. Department of Justice review known as a collaborative reform initiative, a voluntary process to help the Police Department improve.
“After months of delay, aldermen and community members have been clamoring for drafts to be made public, fearing the final report will never be released.
RELATED: Trust damaged between MPD and community, Department of Justice draft report says
RELATED: DOJ draft details recommendations for Milwaukee police [and most every other police department in the U.S!]
“Here are some key takeaways from the draft, which appears to have been written in mid-2016:
1. “The Milwaukee Police Department does not routinely engage in community policing. Community policing means officers work with residents to solve problems.The draft report highlighted examples of the department’s collaboration with local nonprofits and residents on specific problems. But federal evaluators found those efforts fell more into the category of ‘one-offs’ and said community policing was not an overarching strategy in the department.
2. “Officers reported a de-facto quota of two traffic stops per shift. Even though top police officials have flatly denied the existence of a quota system and there isn’t one in writing, officers reported immense pressure to make two stops per shift and feared ‘retribution’ if they did not.
3. “Officers sometimes put themselves at risk to meet traffic stop goals. Because of low staffing and a high volume of calls, officers said they sometimes didn’t tell dispatchers they had finished a call until after they also pulled someone over. This practice raises huge concerns for officer safety if one of those stops goes bad because dispatchers do not know where officers are.
4. “Racial disparities are prevalent in traffic stops and searches. African-Americans are stopped three times more than whites but account for only 2% more of the city’s population. Chief Edward Flynn has said racial disparities are the result of the city’s victim and offender demographics. He has produced maps showing that high-crime areas correspond with poverty, segregation and other social ills. Nonetheless, the stops are straining relationships with residents, according to the draft report.
5. “Internal affairs investigators and supervisors who evaluate officers’ use of force receive no formal training. The Police Department also ‘does not have specific guidelines for conducting use of force investigations,’ the report says.
6. “The Police Department does not reflect the city it serves. African-Americans and women are especially underrepresented. The lack of representation can exacerbate racial tensions, the report noted.
7. “Supervisors have too much latitude when it comes to dealing with citizen complaints. Under department rules, supervisors may decide upfront, before any investigation is done, that a complaint form should not be filed because the allegation does not ‘rise to the level of a standard operating procedure or code of conduct violation.’
8. “The department’s early warning system to identify potentially troubled officers remains ineffective. It flags only officers with three warning signs, such as complaints, within 90 days. The department acknowledged this as a shortcoming five years ago.
9. “The Police Department’s reliance on crime data has distracted the department from building trust with the community. The report is critical of Chief Edward Flynn’s reliance on data, a signature component of his strategy since he took over the department in 2008. Federal evaluators found this approach is having a damaging, if unintended, effect on police-community relations…”
To read the entire report, click here.
- Read tomorrow’s post — what needs to happen in Milwaukee and most other cities in the U.S.
When I see reports like this broken down, I’m always reminded about the gap between our ideals of community service and the reality of our actions. The very human tendency to insist we are individually good, or that problems are isolated to bad apples, are negated by systemic flaws and willful blindness to these problems. To say the problem is not a collective issue for policing nationwide is willfully ignoring the growing list of DOJ investigations into agencies large and small, that expose troubling policies and practices nearly universal to our profession. We must have the courage to tackle them head on or risk losing legitimacy for good.