WJI is reposting reporting from the old storyhill.net website and affidavits from County Jail inmates unfortunate enough to be booked during Sheriff David Clarke's tenure to show just what kind of malfeasance the public can expect if President-elect Donald Trump gives Clarke a federal job.
The affidavits were part of a court case alleging thousands of men and women were improperly detained in the jail under excessive lengths of time, in violation of a 2001 consent decree.
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Clare Fiorenza eventually found the county in contempt of court for the violations.
Thousands held improperly in crowded jail booking room through scroll bar error
Could cost county, insurers
June 27, 2005 --Thousands of men and women were improperly detained for more than 30 hours each in a crowded county jail booking room because a sheriff's deputy never moved his computer scroll bar, court records show.
"I think if -- if I may impose on court and counsel's experience, sometimes when the information presented is wider than the screen, there's a little slide bar at the bottom of the computer," Assistant Corporation Counsel John Schapekahm told Circuit Judge Clare Fiorenza. "He never push the slide bar apparently."
While Sheriff David Clarke's department has been in the spotlight for letting convicted drug dealer Cesar Lira escape by walking out the door after posting bond, the lawsuit over jail population shows that the Lira case is not the only major blunder that Clarke has overseen.
Fiorenza suggested that training that deputies received may be an issue in the jail case.
The improper detentions, which violated a 2001 consent decree, occurred over a 1 1/2-year period of Clarke's tenure. There were more than 13,000 such violations, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation Inc. and Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, Inc.
Information about how long inmates were held in booking was available via computer, Schapekahm said. But that particular piece of information was in the eighth column of a table, and only seven columns showed on the computer that a deputy used to track inmates.
The failure to properly operate a scroll bar could cost the county or its insurers -- a judge already has said the Sheriff's Department may well be liable for damages.
The county for months denied held inmates for more than 30 hours in the booking room. The scroll bar discovery quickly prompted it to change its story.
Officials "were appalled see this, of course," Schapekahm said. "It's not a pretty sight.
County Executive Chris Abele rejected Sheriff David Clarke's request for a 50% tax levy increase for 2017 and is instead recommending an increase of 2.1%.
Abele's recommended levy to support the 2017 Sheriff's Department budget is $60.5 million, up from $59.3 million. Abele is proposing a $70.5 million departmental budget, up $362,612, or 5.1%, from this year's budget.
Abele is not recommending any changes in the numbers of Sheriff's Department deputies; Clarke requested 206 new positions, the bulk of them deputies.
The budget figures are adjusted to reflect changes in 2017 county budgeting methods.
The city's Public Safety Action plan, Sister Rose Steitz said at a public hearing Monday, is perceived in the community as "a page out of Sheriff (David) Clarke's playbook."
The plan did not have support, she said.
Chris Ahmuty, executive director of ACLU-Wisconsin, said some Police Department practices are "undermining...the trust in the community."
The Police Department in February reported to the Fire and Police Commission the department's compliance with the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing recommendations, Ahmuty said.
The task for recommended that "Law enforcement agencies should consider the potential damage to public trust when implementing crime fighting strategies," Ahmuty said. The Police department reported: "Not currently being done."
"Will they ever do it?" he asked Monday.
All in all, the Common Council's Public Safety Action Plan, which is heavy on compliance and coercion and calls for hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending, was not warmly received by community group representatives who testified. During the first 90 minutes of the hearing, not a single speaker endorsed the plan.
Monday's hearing was the first of four scheduled to get input on the Action Plan and was designed specifically to get input from community groups. The next hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Marshall High School, 4141 N. 64th St.
Wisconsin Justice Initiative Executive Director Gretchen Schuldt said in written testimony that "the plan is deeply flawed. It is unaffordable and puts too much emphasis on control and coercion." (See WJI's full testimony below.)
Joseph Ellwanger, representing Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Help, said the answer to the city's problems "is not more police" and that "all the segments of our communities" need to "work together as partners for the common good of all."
Fred Royal, president of NAACP-Milwaukee, said, "We should be getting better outcomes than we're getting from our Police Department."
And R.L. McNeely, chairman of the Chaney Community Advisory Board, asked "Haven't we learned here in Wisconsin...that we can't incarcerate ourselves out of crime?"
Still reeling by accusations of abuse and cover-up at its juvenile institutions, the Department of Corrections now is proposing to sharply curtail public input into the creation of new prison industries.
It's all about making money faster, DOC says in its 2017-19 budget proposal.
"If the Department is more quickly able to establish a new industry, it may be able to realize the profits of the industry sooner," DOC said in its budget proposal.
DOC must now hold a public hearing before it launches a new industry. Under the department's proposal, DOC would simply submit plans for new industries to the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee. The committee could, within 15 working days, call a meeting to consider the matter. If the committee does not notify the department that a meeting is necessary, the department could go ahead and implement the industry without public input.
David Liners, state director of WISDOM, which is deeply involved in state prison reform issues, criticized DOC's effort to curtail public involvement.
"The biggest problems with the Department of Corrections stem from a lack of transparency and external accountability," Liners said. "Whether the concern is solitary confinement, procedures that affect parole-eligible prisoners, revocation policy, or prison industries, the Legislature needs to call for greater accountability. This measure seems to be an unexplained, unjustified move in an exactly the opposite direction," he said.
"Changes to procedure for the Department need to include increased oversight by people outside of the department itself," he said.
Prison industries remain controversial, with some critics alleging they exploit incarcerated people while others say the industries unfairly compete with the private sector.
In Wisconsin, according to a 2015 Legislative Fiscal Bureau paper, the Department of Corrections' corporate arm, Badger State Industries, runs businesses in textiles, including laundry and upholstery; imaging, including sign shops and printing; fabricating, including furniture and license plant manufacture; and a distribution center.
In 2013-14, according to LFG, the Badger State prison industries paid an average hourly inmate wage of 94 cents per hour, and ranged from 79 cents to $1.41 per hour. DOC proposed in the spring adding an inmate canteen industry at Taycheedah Correctional Institution. That business would pay inmates 95 cents an hour, LFB said in a June report. Prisons that operated their own canteens paid an average of 11 cents an hour.
Adding 280 police officers to the city's payroll, as called for in a public safety plan, would cost $31.7 million per year by the fifth year of the surge, according to city budget figures.
That amount dwarfs $23.6 million budget for the entire Milwaukee Public Library system.
The additional cops would cost $29 million in the first year, then increase as officers receive annual step increases, city Budget and Management Director Mark Nicolini said in an email.
The costs include initial equipment costs of $7,285 per officer and a new $57,000 squad car for every five additional officers.
And while Common Council's Public Safety Action Plan says adding the 280 officers would restore police staffing to 2008 levels, figures from the city's budget office indicates that the increase would boost staffing levels well past those seen in 2008. That year, there was an average of 1,994 sworn officers. This year, there is an average of 1,888 sworn officers, or 106 fewer than in 2008, Nicolini said.
Adding 106 officers to the Police Department would cost $11 million the first year, increasing to $13 million in year five, according to the budget office figures.
Attorney General Brad Schimel, heading up the investigation into the fatal shooting of Sylville Smith, has received $2,500 from the Milwaukee police union's political action committee since 2014.
Schimel promised a transparent investigation, but thus far has failed to deliver, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
"To date you have promised transparency, but provided little information on your investigation to the community and Mr. Smith’s grieving family and friends, who seek understanding of the deadly incident that transpired on August 13," the civil rights organization said in a letter to Schimel.
Smith's shooting led to unrest and arson around the Sherman Park neighborhood.
Schimel announced Monday that events related to Smith's shooting were captured by two police body cameras, not just one. He declined to release the videos.
Schimel has receive five different $500 donations from the Milwaukee Police Association's PAC, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
Unsuccessful district attorney candidate Verona Swanigan lost every ward in every Milwaukee County suburb, won just one Milwaukee ward south of I-94, and swept to victory through much of the city’s central city, according to county election results.
The south side ward Swanigan won, ward 254, boasted a total of seven voters. She won five, and District Attorney John Chisholm, who won re-election to his third term, won two.
Swanigan averaged 60% of the vote in the 116 city wards she won; Chisholm received an average of 69% of the vote in the 204 city wards he won.
Chisholm's biggest margin of victory came in Shorewood, where he won 87% of the vote; Swanigan came closest in Milwaukee, Brown Deer and West Milwaukee. She won about 40% of the vote in each of those communities.
Swanigan’s election strategy depended on a coalition of black voters and the machinations of dark hat political operative Craig Peterson, who is a money-funneler for Eric O’Keefe and the right-wing Club for Growth.
It didn’t work. Chisholm had a strong record, and the liberal Greater Wisconsin Committee came to his aid. Swanigan, on the other hand, had significant liabilities, including a paucity of experience, questionable ability, a history of mental and physical health issues, and a bankruptcy. One woman, Shalonda Ezell, even offered voters gift cards to cast their ballots for Swanigan.
Overall, Chisholm won in a landslide, 65% to 35%.
The map below shows voting results, some of which follow reflect the city's traditional geographic racial divisions. The green areas represent Chisholm wins; light areas are Swanigan wins; and the blue areas are where the two candidates tied. The data source is unofficial Milwaukee County election returns.
Below that is a chart showing each municipality's vote totals.
Sheriff David Clarke's is seeking a 50% tax levy increase to fund a Sheriff's Department expansion that would include 206 additional full-time positions.
Clarke's requested property tax increase is a stunning $28.7 million, up 50% from the $57.3 million levy for this year. The figures are adjusted to reflect changes in 2017 budgeting methods.
Clarke and the deputies' union are fresh off a defeat in the State Court of Appeals over whether Clarke has the right to appoint as many deputies as he feels is necessary. Clarke and the union argued he did; the Appeals Court disagreed.
Clarke's budget request is sure to fuel the forever feud between him and County Executive Chris Abele. The two have clashed over many things, including the Sheriff's Department budget.
The 206 new full-time equivalent positions Clarke wants next year would increase FTE staffing to 913, a 29% increase from the 707 FTEs authorized this year.
"This budget seeks to remedy staff shortages created by previous years' budgets, requiring excessive amounts of overtime that has resulted in overworked, tired, and stressed sworn officers and CO staff on the job and at home," the Sheriff's Department said in its budget request.
Said Steven R. Kreklow, Abele's performance, strategy and budget director: "I really can't say anything at this point other than we're reviewing the request from the Sheriff's Office and will be discussing this and other departmental budget requests with the County Executive over the next month or so."
Wisconsin’s state-level judiciary is the sixth whitest in the country, according to a new study.
And among states with at least 100 judges, Wisconsin is dead last in racial diversity among state judges.
Not so coincidentally, according to another new study, Wisconsin's black incarceration rates are more than 11 times that for whites, the second-highest disparity rate in the nation.
The report on judges, "The Gavel Gap: Who Sits in Judgment on State Courts?" reports that only 5% of the 264 Wisconsin judges considered are non-white. Nationally, 20% of judges are people of color, four times the Wisconsin rate.
Wisconsin's judicial diversity lags behind other Midwestern states including Minnesota (299 judges, 15% judges of color), Michigan (257 judges, 15% judges of color), Ohio (416, 9%), Illinois (436, 27%), Indiana (129, 12%), and Iowa (127, 6%).
And worse, less than one percent of Wisconsin judges are non-white women, according to the report. That is better than only the seven states – Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia – that have no women judges of color.
Women as a whole are underrepresented in the Wisconsin state judiciary, according to the report. Some 50% of the state’s population is women, but just 20% of judges are.
Nationally, women of color make up 8% of state-level judges and women account for 30% of state judges.
Men of color account for 4% of Wisconsin judges and 12% nationally.
Gov. Scott Walker recently released the names of the three finalists for the State Supreme Court seat held by David Prosser, who is retiring – all three are white males.
If Wisconsin refuses to elect or appoint minority judges to the bench, it has no problems sending minorities to prison, according to "The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons." Nationally, African-Americans are sent to state prisons at a rate 5.1 times that whites are. In Wisconsin, blacks are imprisoned at 11.5 times the rate that whites are.
Hispanics are incarcerated in Wisconsin at 2.6 times the rate whites are, the fourth highest discrepancy level in the country. Nationally, on averages, Hispanics are locked up in state prisons at a rate 1.4 times that whites are incarcerated.
The authors of the judicial study, Tracey E. George, a law and political science at professor at Vanderbilt University, and Albert H. Yoon, a law and economics professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, said their findings "demonstrate that we need a better process for developing a pipeline of women and minorities to serve as judges. Our courts must be representative in order to fulfill their purposes. Our laws are premised in part on the idea that our courts will be staffed by judges who can understand the circumstances of the communities which they serve."
And Ashley Nellis, a senior research at The Sentencing Project and author of the racial disparity report, recommended, among other things, "adequate and regular training on the role of implicit, unchecked bias by key decisionmakers in the criminal justice system."
"While open expression of negative views about people of color, as well as overt discrimination, has declined significantly in many areas of American society (largely attributable to successful civil rights laws and campaigns), some convincingly argue that this overt discrimination, especially against African Americans, has transformed into implicit bias, but with similar disparate results," she wrote.
"Implicit bias trainings can make people aware of these temptations, and this awareness can minimize racially influenced trigger responses in the future," she said.
The State Department of Justice has quietly dropped the maximum 50:1 student/teacher ratio it established for firearms training required to qualify for a concealed weapons permit, according to state emergency rules rules distributed Monday.
That means a person can be fully qualified to carry a concealed weapon by attending a class with 1,000 other people. Actual shooting experience not required.
"The legality of the 50:1 requirement is being challenged in pending litigation," DOJ said in a statement explaining the decision. "In the course of that litigation, DOJ has determined that the 50:1 requirement is not enforceable under existing law and should be repealed."
The department already has stopped enforcing the class size limit, which was established by rule, the DOJ statement said.
"The public welfare requires formal repeal of the 50:1 requirement by emergency rule in order to make it clear to the public that the requirement is no longer being enforced and to promptly resolve the pending litigation with the least burden and inconvenience to the Court and the parties and with the least litigation expense to the people of the State of Wisconsin," the statement said.
Gov. Scott Walker approved repealing the class size limit. Concealed Carry, Inc. was the organization challenging the limit in court.
DOJ said in its statement the state law allowing Wisconsin residents to carry concealed weapons specifically prohibited the department from "imposing conditions, limitations, or requirements on the issuance of a CCW license that are not specifically provided for" in the statute.
Below is the rule. That language DOJ is eliminating is in bold.
TEXT OF THE PROPOSED PERMANENT RULE
SECTION 1. Jus 17.03 (8) is amended to read:
Jus 17.03 (8) "Instructor-led" means training that is conducted face-to-face individually or in groups with an instructor-student ratio that does not exceed 50 students per instructor and in which instructors actively guide students through each lesson, answer questions, facilitate discussion, and provide feedback on activities and assignments. Learner-led or self-directed learning — the delivery of learning experiences to independent learners who lead and manage their own experience, delivered via web pages, multimedia presentations, computer applications, online presentations, or similar methods — is not instructor-led.
The emergency rule is effective until Sept. 16.
Stay tuned for further challenges. The concealed carry statute also does not specify in-person instruction.
Photo by By Augustas Didžgalvis - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22909218
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