Po­lice re­view

On­go­ing re­view of po­lice halted

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - ASH­LEY LUTHERN

A fed­eral re­view of the Mil­wau­kee Po­lice Depart­ment has been halted with the re­tool­ing of a pro­gram once fo­cused on im­prov­ing trust be­tween po­lice and com­mu­ni­ties.

A fed­eral re­view of the Mil­wau­kee Po­lice Depart­ment has been halted with the re­tool­ing of a pro­gram once fo­cused on im­prov­ing trust be­tween po­lice and com­mu­ni­ties.

The move ef­fec­tively ends the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice’s col­lab­o­ra­tive re­form ini­tia­tive as it has ex­isted since 2011. The pro­gram’s fo­cus has been shifted to pro­vid­ing train­ing on ac­tive shoot­ers, dis­man­tling gangs and other crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Cities such as Mil­wau­kee, which are cur­rently un­der re­view, will be moved into the new ver­sion of the pro­gram, a depart­ment spokes­woman said Saturday.

As a re­sult, those agen­cies will not get fed­eral help to boost ac­count­abil­ity or to im­ple­ment re­forms, as they would have un­der the old ver­sion of the pro­gram.

In­stead, they will re­ceive as­sis­tance with polic­ing tac­tics to re­duce crime.

As the col­lab­o­ra­tive re­form process — re­quested by Chief Ed­ward Flynn in the wake of a fa­tal po­lice shoot­ing — lin­gered in limbo with the change of the pres­i­den­tial ad­min­is­tra­tion, Mil­wau­kee of­fi­cials ex­pected as much. They made that clear Thurs­day while dis­cussing a draft of the fed­eral re­view ob­tained and pub­lished by the Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal Sen­tinel in Au­gust.

“We have what we have, and what we have is the draft,” Ald. Milele Coggs said at Thurs­day’s meet­ing of the Com­mon Coun­cil’s Steer­ing and Rules Com­mit­tee.

She em­pha­sized a fo­cus on the draft’s rec­om­men­da­tions, “since for rea­sons that are be­yond all of our con­trol in this room, that fi­nal re­port will not be there.”

Flynn con­firmed there is no fi­nal ver­sion of the re­port when he ap­peared at the meet­ing.

Com­mon Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Ashanti Hamil­ton said a task force of com­mu­nity lead­ers will take up the rec­om­men­da­tions in the draft re­port.

“We want to put that into the hands of some com­mu­nity lead­ers let them chew on it ... and then let’s talk about what needs to be im­ple­mented and when and where and how,” Hamil­ton said.

Flynn had re­quested the col­lab­o­ra­tive re­form re­view in Novem­ber 2015 amid pub­lic out­cry af­ter fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors de­clined to charge a now­fired of­fi­cer in the on-duty fa­tal shoot­ing of Don­tre Hamil­ton in Red Ar­row Park.

The col­lab­o­ra­tive re­form ini­tia­tive started out as a vol­un­tary, non­ad­ver­sar­ial process aimed at im­prov­ing the com­mu­nity’s trust in the Po­lice Depart­ment.

A back­ground doc­u­ment pro­vided by the Jus­tice Depart­ment sug­gests

the pro­gram had evolved to in­clude sig­nif­i­cant rec­om­men­da­tions, which led to an “un­in­tended con­se­quence of a more ad­ver­sar­ial re­la­tion­ship.”

The changes to col­lab­o­ra­tive re­form are in keep­ing with a memo is­sued by At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions in March. In it, he di­rected the Jus­tice Depart­ment to re­view its pro­grams to make sure they aligned with the goals of pro­mot­ing “of­fi­cer safety, of­fi­cer morale, and pub­lic re­spect for their work.” An­other goal was to en­sure that pub­lic safety re­mains un­der “lo­cal con­trol and lo­cal ac­count­abil­ity,” ac­cord­ing to the back­ground doc­u­ment.

Even af­ter the memo was re­leased, teams within the Mil­wau­kee Po­lice Depart­ment con­tin­ued work­ing to gather in­for­ma­tion for the re­view de­spite lit­tle com­mu­ni­ca­tion from the Jus­tice Depart­ment, said Les­lie Sil­letti,

di­rec­tor of the Of­fice of Man­age­ment, Anal­y­sis and Plan­ning.

At the be­gin­ning of sum­mer, po­lice of­fi­cials con­sid­ered how to move for­ward “in this gray space,” she said at the meet­ing.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment ex­plic­itly pro­hib­ited the Po­lice Depart­ment from re­leas­ing any draft reports or other ma­te­ri­als from the col­lab­o­ra­tive process. Flynn said he went to the city at­tor­ney’s of­fice to ask if there was a way to share broad rec­om­men­da­tions with the Com­mon Coun­cil and the Mil­wau­kee Fire and Po­lice Com­mis­sion.

He said he was told he could dis­cuss those top­ics in closed ses­sions. That changed when the draft re­port was posted on­line by the Jour­nal Sen­tinel.

Flynn also said he did not dis­pute many of the rec­om­men­da­tions con­tained in the draft re­port. How­ever, he main­tained

it was rid­dled with fac­tual er­rors and lack of con­text.

Re­gard­ing rec­om­men­da­tions about com­mu­nity polic­ing, for ex­am­ple, Flynn ac­knowl­edged there is no writ­ten de­part­men­twide strat­egy on the topic. He said he had made a de­ci­sion to de­cen­tral­ize those ef­forts and base them within po­lice dis­tricts. Still, he agreed there should be a writ­ten pol­icy.

An­other find­ing in the draft was that the depart­ment does not hold all mem­bers ac­count­able for en­gag­ing in com­mu­nity polic­ing.

“Well, it’s true,” Flynn said. “We have peo­ple that are spe­cial­ists who do a lot of the prob­le­mori­ented polic­ing ... but every sin­gle sec­tor car that’s run­ning from job to job every night doesn’t have the same level of train­ing and ex­per­tise.”

“We do train­ing for ev­ery­body,” he said. “We

could do more.”

An­other rec­om­men­da­tion: Hav­ing an in­de­pen­dent com­mu­nity ad­vi­sory board that meets reg­u­larly with the chief.

“I don’t dis­agree with that,” Flynn said.

The depart­ment has “pieces” of up­dates to the orig­i­nal draft re­port, which cor­rect fac­tual er­rors and pro­vide more de­tails on the depart­ment’s on­go­ing ef­forts in those ar­eas, Sil­letti said.

Ald. Nik Ko­vac and Hamil­ton, the coun­cil

pres­i­dent, pressed Flynn to re­lease that ma­te­rial.

“This is­sue of cor­rect­ing fac­tual er­rors is dis­tract­ing from what should be a healthy sub­jec­tive dis­cus­sion about where to go,” Ko­vac said.

Flynn again ref­er­enced the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s ban on re­leas­ing it.

“I’m go­ing to deal with what is now in the pub­lic do­main how­ever it got there, but I’m not now go­ing to uni­lat­er­ally vi­o­late their di­rec­tive,” he said.

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