By Gretchen Schuldt
The Wisconsin Justice Initiative on Tuesday called for Milwaukee officials to develop and adopt enforcement guidelines and accountability measures for the recently announced stepped-up use of the city's curfew ordinance against juveniles and their parents.
"We have seen in the past valid concerns raised about police practices by the ACLU’s stop-and-frisk lawsuit," WJI President Craig Johnson said in a letter to Mayor Cavalier Johnson, Police Chief Jeffrey B. Norman and the Common Council. "Any policy that increases the number of police-citizen encounters and places too much reliance on police discretion raises concerns that these practices will again prove problematic to certain groups."
The ACLU suit resulted in the Milwaukee Police Department and the city agreeing to reforms in pedestrian and vehicle stop and search procedures. The ACLU presented strong evidence of racial disparities in who was stopped and searched.
Mayor Johnson and Chief Norman announced the increased curfew enforcement last week, in the wake of the mass shooting near the Deer District after a Bucks' game. No juveniles have been arrested in connection with the shooting, and Norman said the stronger curfew enforcement was meant to protect them.
WJI's Johnson said the move could worsen police-community relations unless "the city adopts and publishes accountability measures and enforcement guidelines."
"Curfew enforcement guidelines should make clear how police will enforce the curfew and who is at risk of receiving citations," Craig Johnson wrote. "Is a 16-year-old making their way home from a Brewers’ game going to get a ticket? How about a youth waiting at a bus stop after work?"
The city's primary curfew ordinance makes it illegal for anyone 16 or under to "congregate, loiter, wander, stroll, stand or play in or upon the public streets, highways, roads, alleys, parks, public buildings, places of amusement and entertainment, places of employment, vacant lots or any public places in the city either on foot or in or upon any conveyance being driven or parked thereon." Violations can bring forfeitures of $100-$200.
Parents and guardians can be cited if they "suffer or permit or by inefficient control to allow" violations by minors.
There are exceptions to the prohibitions. A youth can be out and about while with a parent or guardian or when "exercising first amendment rights protected by the United States constitution or the Wisconsin constitution, including freedom of speech, the free exercise of religion, and the right of assembly," according to the ordinance. A parent or guardian will not be held liable for any violation if they have filed with the police a missing persons report regarding the youth.
"How will an officer determine whether a young person qualifies for one of the exemptions in the ordinance?" Craig Johnson asked, adding, "What are the standards for deciding what parents are cited and when?"
Craig Johnson cited the city's "contributing to truancy" ordinance as an "object lesson in the need for enforcement standards."
In 1995, when lobbying for such an ordinance, then-Police Chief Philip Arreola said he was concerned about adults and businesses who "were responsible for contributing to the students (sic) absence from school by hosting parties and/or allowing students to congregate/loiter on their premises.”
The contributing to truancy ordinance, since then, however, has been used mostly against Black women, Johnson said.
"From 2015 through September 2020, according to Municipal Court statistics, 94% of contributing-to- delinquency citations were issued to women, 62% to Black people, 25% to Hispanic people, and 11% to Whites," he wrote. "That disproportionate caseload suggests inequitable enforcement."
"How will MPD ensure that police equitably enforce the curfew ordinances?" he asked. "Is MPD willing to publicly report the demographics and ages of those cited?"
He also asked whether businesses would be subject to curfew ordinances that apply specifically to them. One ordinance, for example, requires venues with a public entertainment license to announce an approaching curfew 20 minutes before it takes effect.
"All entertainment shall cease for the 20-minute period prior to curfew," the ordinance says.
Violations carry forfeitures of $500 to $2,000.
It also is generally illegal for a business to allow anyone under 17 to enter or stay on the premises after curfew, and hotels, motels, and rooming houses are prohibited from allowing anyone under 18 to "visit, loiter, idle, wander or stroll in any portion of such" business from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Violations of that ordinance carries forfeitures of $100 to $200.
'By Gretchen Schuldt
A proposed Milwaukee ordinance that would label some repeated traffic offenses a public nuisance was sent back to committee by the Common Council Tuesday after the city attorney's office said it was too broad and unenforceable.
"The ordinance would apply to a single violation of one of the listed traffic laws; and the listed traffic laws include both serious and relatively minor violations," Deputy City Attorney Todd Farris wrote in a memo. "For example, one violation for 'driving too slow' would, under the proposed ordinance, be a nuisance per se."
"We believe that in an injunction proceeding brought by the City, a court would likely conclude that the proposed ordinance is unreasonably broad....In other words, we do not believe that the proposed ordinance would accomplish the goal of making it easier for the City to obtain injunctive relief against problem drivers," he wrote.
Ald. Michael Murphy, the main sponsor of the measure, introduced it as a way to deal with the endemic reckless driving that is infuriating residents and threatening lives and limbs. Under the proposal, numerous driving offenses related to reckless driving, such as speeding, fleeing an officer, running stoplights, or driving on sidewalks, could be considered a public nuisance, allowing the city to file suit to seize the car involved. Murphy has said the ordinance was meant to target people stopped multiple times,
Some statutes included, however, go beyond reckless driving. One offense covered by the ordinance, for example, would be leaving a leaflet on a car.
In a memo provided by his office last week, the Milwaukee Police Department said the driving-related state laws included in the ordinance "were intended to broadly cover sections that refer to behavior that falls within the spirit of reckless driving, since not all reckless driving violations are cited under that specific statute. For example, driving on the wrong side of the road is perceived as "reckless' and could be cited under reckless driving... Not all subsections within those statutes may directly apply. They are broadly defined to buttress a nuisance litigation action under a nuisance per se theory."
The city attorney's opinion, also signed by City Attorney Tearman Spencer, suggested that "an ordinance declaring habitual or repeated violations of the more serious traffic laws to be a nuisance per se would stand a much better chance of being upheld by a court in an injunction proceeding."
By Gretchen Schuldt
Waupaca County District Attorney Veronica Isherwood, in an extraordinary letter to defense lawyers, said Waupaca County Sheriff Tim Wilz acknowledged that his department regularly alters reports to remove information that could help defendants establish their innocence.
"Additionally we have received information that reports to my office of these irregularities are discouraged," she wrote.
Wilz admitted the practice of altering reports in testimony, Isherwood said, but she did not give specifics.
"It was also disclosed that evidence of any changes were not preserved," she said in a letter addressed to county defense attorneys and dated Friday. "We have no idea if the reports in the case you are defending were changed or altered in any way."
The state, Isherwood said, has evidence that in one case, "Waupaca County Sheriff Captain Julie Thobaben altered a report authored by a deputy which resulted in the removal of exculpatory information. Captain Thobaben testified to her actions this week."
That is the only instance "where we are certain a report was changed, but the sworn testimony that this happens regularly is very concerning," Isherwood said.
Under the legal doctrine called the "Brady rule," prosecutors must disclose evidence that is exculpatory or helpful to the defense.
"Under normal circumstances you would receive notification of a Brady violation, only when an affected officer was subpoenaed to testify," Isherwood said. "The attorneys at the Waupaca County District Attorney('s) office believe under this circumstance, the spirit of Brady/Giglio makes it incumbent upon us to notify you of this irregularity."
"We pride ourselves on upholding an extremely high ethical standard in our charging decisions and prosecution of criminal cases," Isherwood said. "The loss of someone’s liberty is a tremendous responsibility that we do not take lightly. The Courts have been notified of this information," she said.
Third of three stories.
Marijuana was the second most-common target in residential drug searches conducted by police in Milwaukee County in 2019, well behind cocaine but ahead of heroin, a review of search warrant filings found.
Trailing far behind and seldom searched for were meth, opiate painkillers, and Ecstasy, according to an analysis by Marquette University journalists.
Rarely was marijuana – which Milwaukee County and many municipalities have taken steps to decriminalize – the sole drug targeted by police in a particular raid. That was the case in just 11 of 433 drug search warrants carried out at Milwaukee County addresses in 2019.
That year was chosen for the review because it was the most recent year unaffected by the COVID pandemic, which affected law enforcement and court operations.
But marijuana was in the search mix in 54% of warrant requests, most of them by Milwaukee police and multi-agency drug task forces.
Here’s the breakdown of how often police targeted each drug in the 433 searches:
Police reported nabbing 26 pounds of pot on a summer day in 2019 at a home on Milwaukee’s northwest side, but court records show no charges against the suspect until a separate incident in 2021.
In south suburban Greenfield, police investigated alleged gang members and made multiple arrests on marijuana, heroin and cocaine charges with help from a home search following neighborhood complaints in 2019.
No matter the drug, searches of residences were pretty effective in finding potentially incriminating evidence.
Police found drugs in at least two out of every three residential searches (67%). (Excludes canine drug sniffs outside homes.)
Sloppy or inconsistent reporting by police on public search warrant documents makes that statistic a little squishy. The actual number is likely higher. Sometimes police report finding evidence but don’t attach the inventory or otherwise specify results.
The “success” rate in finding evidence rises to 81% when including things such as weapons, drug paraphernalia, ammunition, and business records of dealing. (Again excluding the sniffs.)
Nearly every canine “odor search” included pot as a target in 2019, the review found.
That might be changing for some police departments as marijuana legalization spreads in the U.S. – though not yet in Wisconsin.
“Many jurisdictions that are buying drug dogs now are not having those drug dogs trained to detect marijuana, in anticipation of potential legalization in this state,” said South Milwaukee Police Chief William Jessup.
“If you have a dog that's trained to detect marijuana, you can't untrain that dog,” he added.
Jessup said South Milwaukee police are moving away from doing odor searches for marijuana.
What is the track record of “Bravo” and “Rex” and all those other drug-sniffing dogs that local police have reported using outside residences to build a case for doing a search of a residence?
The Marquette review found that in odor searches, police report the dog almost unfailingly found the presence of drugs. Police used positive dog hits to beef up their applications for far more intrusive search warrants. But the accuracy of police dogs has been questioned, and studies have shown that there are a significant number of false alerts – enough to raise questions about the usefulness of any single drug sniff.
The Marquette review found less interest in marijuana searches by anti-drug task forces that go after higher-level drug traffickers and employ officers from multiple agencies – local, state and federal.
The individual municipal police departments that conducted searches – and not all of them did – showed more interest in searching for pot.
Second of three stories
When police enter Milwaukee County homes without notice or invitation to search for evidence in the war on drugs, they overwhelmingly target low-income and predominantly Black neighborhoods in the city of Milwaukee.
Nine of every 10 drug searches in 2019 were in the city rather than suburbs, and 75% of properties searched were occupied by Black residents, according to a new analysis by Marquette University journalists of every residential drug search in the county that year, the last before the pandemic curtailed many law enforcement activities.
In the somewhat rare instances of police searching the properties of White suspected dealers, they found illegal drugs slightly more often than at Black-occupied places subjected to searches (76% to 71%), the Marquette investigation found.
There were 433 drug searches in the county in 2019, or more than one a day. Given their geographic concentration, it’s safe to say that some ZIP codes in Milwaukee’s central city have seen many hundreds, even a thousand drug raids or more since drug enforcement ramped up starting in the 1970s.
More than half of drug searches (222) were in Milwaukee, concentrated in six ZIP codes, five on the north side and 1 on the near south side. They are 53206, 53209, 53212, 53204, 53210, and 53208. Together, they accounted for 51% of the drug searches in Milwaukee County.
Every case was different but details repeated: tips to police, drug buys by frequent informants, surveillance, allegations of violence, evidence fished from garbage outside suspected drug houses. In Riverwest, police targeted a guy with a prior drug record but came up empty in a search. Near North 5th Street and West Capitol Drive, a search netted 100 grams of cocaine, criminal charges, and a conviction. Some days brought as many as three or four searches; on others, none.
Weapons were frequent companions to drugs, turning up nearly half the time in these searches.
In 2019, weapons – mostly firearms ranging from handguns to assault rifles – were found significantly more often in searches involving Black suspects than suspects of other races (48% to 38%).
Police more frequently searched Black-occupied properties for weapons (66% to 46%), the Marquette analysis found.
Police and prosecutors in part explain the disparities by saying they focus on drug dealing, not possession, and that drug sales in predominantly Black, lower-income neighborhoods are more public and generate more violence and neighborhood complaints than in wealthier areas.
It’s common for far-suburban drug users to drive into the city or adjacent suburbs to buy and then return home to use.
It’s about economic ability -- the fact that somebody who lives in a million-dollar suburban house isn’t going to be dealing drugs out of the house and also can easily get drugs, said William Jessup, a longtime Milwaukee police assistant chief and current chief in suburban South Milwaukee.
“They just have to drive somewhere to get it, or call somebody to have them delivered,” Jessup said.
In the view of police-reform activists, politics plays a role.
Decisions by lawmakers, police and prosecutors to punish some crimes and not others and penalize some drug crimes more heavily than others shows that determining who is a “criminal” is a political decision.
“It’s a decision of who is policed, and who is punished,” said Devin Anderson, who has coordinated the LiberateMKE campaign to reduce the size of the Milwaukee police budget. He is a manager at the African American Roundtable.
Jessup said that while working under Edward Flynn, Milwaukee’s police chief from 2008-2018, the department determined that it was conducting too many police searches of homes every year, considering the results and costs. They cut back on drug raids, he said.
Still, in 2019, police in the county conducted 433 drug raids on properties.
Milwaukee police dominated the action, along with special state-federal task forces that go after higher-level narcotics organizations with assistance from MPD and other locals.
But in the two years since 2019, the number of drug search warrants in Milwaukee County fell dramatically, down to 279 in 2021, coinciding with the COVID-19 crisis and the racial reckoning following the killings of Breonna Taylor during a botched police raid in Kentucky and George Floyd during an arrest in Minneapolis.
An MPD spokesperson, Sgt. Efrain Cornejo, said there was no particular reason for the drop, and that police continue to support the effort against drug trafficking.
Despite police success in using searches to arrest drug suspects, some with experience in law say America can’t arrest its way out of the drug problem.
The root problem is that drug dealing is still attractive in areas where jobs and opportunities are less available, said David Budde, who worked eight years in the Milwaukee Metropolitan Drug Unit conducting drug investigations.
“It’s about a lack of economic health,” Budde said. “Why do men and women deal drugs? It’s the lure of easy money.”
In the most-searched Milwaukee zip code, the average income per-capita was just $13,743.
Milwaukee police sought no-knocks in two-thirds of home drug searches, Marquette investigation shows
First of three stories.
Recent changes affecting the Milwaukee Police Department could severely limit the use of no-knock searches in the city – but won’t completely end the practice.
That’s partly because state, federal and suburban cops conduct a lot of searches in Milwaukee on their own authority. And Milwaukee cops, in some instances, can still ask for no-knock warrants.
Another factor is just how normalized no-knocks became in the War on Drugs, with police saying the element of surprise protects officers and evidence.
As recently as 2019, Milwaukee police investigating drug dealing sought permission to use no-knocks in 77% of their searches, according to an investigation by Marquette University journalists.
And Milwaukee County court commissioners and judges almost always granted those requests (92% approval rate), the research found.
The year 2019 was chosen for this project because it was the most recent year unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic, which hampered law enforcement and court operations.
No-knock applications presented by police sometimes pointed to strong evidence about suspects’ ties to firearms, violent histories, use of video surveillance, and use of guard dogs. In other cases, the evidence was more abstract, referring to the tendency of most drug suspects, but saying little or nothing about the specific suspect at issue.
The Marquette review also found that:
Even before the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission acted last November to limit them, the number of no-knock requests had been declining for two years in Milwaukee. That in part is likely to be attributable to the pandemic, which slowed police activity of all sorts. And out in the field, the actual use of no-knocks in real life – as opposed to just having permission to use one –had fallen close to zero in 2021, according to the Milwaukee Police Department.
The reality, however, is that the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission’s action in November 2021 didn’t completely ban no-knocks, even though the commission said it did.
City police officers working with multi-agency task forces, for example, can still help carry them out if they can convince top Police Department brass that announcing police presence before pushing inside is too dangerous or would harm evidence-gathering. It’s common for MPD officers and other local police to work on these task forces or special units.
And suburban police investigating a drug crime that spills over into Milwaukee face no prohibition on requesting a no-knock for a Milwaukee residence unless their own communities have banned them.
A suburban request came in Dec. 21 – after approval of the no-knock limits – when a police officer from Cudahy working with an FBI task force asked for and got judicial approval for a no-knock near W. Greenfield Ave. and S. 23rd St. in Milwaukee. The officer had evidence the alleged dealers would be armed. The search turned up heroin, cocaine, cash – and a gun, court records show.
But otherwise in December the new no-knock policy made a difference: no MPD officer requested a no-knock.
Milwaukee County Court Commissioner Barry Phillips approved the no-knock in that Cudahy/ FBI task force case, but he stood out in 2019 in a different way.
Phillips in 2019 showed a willingness to turn down police no-knock requests, a rarity among the 33 judges or court commissioners asked to approve them that year, the Marquette review found. He declined about 20% while handling considerably more search warrant requests than most others. By contrast, in cases handled by other judges or commissioners, only 2% of requests were declined – just three cases in total.
A national anti-no-knock movement flared in early 2020 after Louisville police killed Breonna Taylor during a botched drug raid. In Milwaukee, the debate over no-knocks also was influenced by the killing of Milwaukee Police Officer Matthew Rittner in 2019. He was shot while he and other officers were trying to enter a drug suspect’s home with a battering ram while carrying out a no-knock search.
Some in law enforcement see problems with overuse of no-knocks and the dangers the element of surprise carries.
One suburban police chief, South Milwaukee’s William Jessup, sees them fading away. He gives them extra scrutiny in South Milwaukee. That community, along with West Allis and Oak Creek, are the suburbs most involved in doing drug search warrants, based on the review of court records.
“A no-knock doesn’t necessarily make the officer safer,” Jessup said. “There’s probably some benefit in reducing the amount of drugs that are flushed or hidden, but to me that’s negligible.”
In low-level drug cases Jessup’s officers often do “knock and talks” instead of home searches when dealing is suspected. That can yield admissions of guilt, and an end to dealing, in exchange for avoiding imprisonment, he said.
David Budde, a former Milwaukee Metropolitan Drug Unit member and District Attorney chief investigator, helped conduct many no-knock drug raids.
“They’re dangerous – not just to the people inside, but they’re dangerous to us,” Budde said.
Still, both men agreed with a position advanced by top Milwaukee police officials during Fire and Police Commission debate: no-knocks should be an option if risk of injury to police is too high. (Police found firearms or ammunition or both in 45% of drug search warrants in 2019 in the county, according to the Marquette review of 312 cases for which full data was available).
Another former law enforcement official, former Milwaukee County prosecutor Hanna Kolberg, said no-knocks “should be used judiciously and carefully, but there are times where if you take the right tool away, things can happen and maybe worse or better.”
In Madison, majority Republicans in the state Legislature are considering reversing Milwaukee’s ban on no-knocks.
By Margo Kirchner
The mother of a man killed by police after she called to ask for a wellness check on her mentally ill son put it bluntly:
“How could you as a parent not blame yourself for that phone call?”
Toni Biegert's son Joseph was shot by police in 2015. She and others — family members of nine men killed by officers — testified recently before a subcommittee of the Assembly Speaker’s Task Force on Racial Disparities. The committee wanted specifically to hear from families impacted by disparities in law enforcement.
Joseph suffered from depression, and after Toni spoke with him by telephone that day in 2015 she worried that he would take too much medication, as he had threatened that previously. Toni said she could not get across Green Bay fast enough to get to Joseph herself.
When police arrived, Joseph, age 30, let them in and was cooperative, Toni said. Police checked for weapons but found none, she stated.
The officers decided to take Joseph into custody and when they patted down his pelvic area he reacted and pulled away. The scene then became chaotic, said Toni. Police took Joseph to the ground, punched him, and hit him with a baton. Toni said the police version of the scene includes Joseph dragging officers to the kitchen, where he obtained a knife from a butcher block and grazed an officer’s arm with it. Police then shot Joseph nine times.
Toni said she will never know the facts, emphasizing that “Joseph’s not here to tell his side of the story.”
Toni testified that her life will never be the same. She asked subcommittee members to put themselves in her shoes as the parent who reached out “to have someone just check on your child and he’s dead now.”
She questioned why police would take her son down and punch him merely because he pulled back when touched. In her opinion they should have calmed him down.
Joe’s only crime was that he suffered from mental illness, she said.
Toni called for mandatory crisis intervention training, or “CIT,” for every police officer, because one in five people suffers from mental illness. She charged that the officers who shot her son escalated the situation from the beginning of the encounter and that CIT could have affected the outcome.
Toni indicated that in response to her demands for mandatory CIT she has been told that no funding exists for it, and CIT remains a voluntary program. She questioned why CIT and compassion are not part of police academy training.
“Police officers need to know how to interact with people who are suffering” with mental illness, she said.
“At the end of the day, my son shouldn’t be dead,” she said.
By Gretchen Schuldt
Complying with a federal court settlement to end race-based stops by Milwaukee police "seems an afterthought" to many city officials, including those at the top, according to the settlement monitor.
"It is not integrated into the daily work, strategic planning, and service to the community for all of government," the monitor, the Crime and Justice Institute, said in its second annual report on the settlement.
"Dedicated professionals" are seeking to implement the settlement, "and yet, they seem to toil without a citywide mandate or the highest-level leadership confirming that this work matters," the report said.
"Up to this point," the report said, "we have not seen any leader organize all relevant agencies in a conversation that drives the Defendants toward compliance. Each agency seems left to its own to set a plan without oversight, coordination, or direction."
"They seem to toil without a citywide mandate or the highest-level leadership confirming that this work matters."
Neither Mayor Tom Barrett nor Common Council President Cavalier Johnson responded to requests for comment on the consultant's findings.
"Unfortunately, too few seem focused on the path of hard work towards compliance," CJI said.. "Or even on the important, long-term reforms that compliance permits."
Police traffic and pedestrian stops still show evidence of bias, CJI said, and the city remains out of compliance with many terms of the 2018 settlement.
The settlement followed a federal court lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Wisconsin, the national ACLU and the law firm of Covington and Burling. The Police Department, the Fire and Police Commission, and the city agreed to undertake a number of reforms, including an end to race-based pedestrian and traffic stops.
"Many reforms embedded in the agreement require substantial government involvement, following the notion that creating and living in a safe community should not just concern the public and police...." the report said. "Effective oversight is a responsibility of and should be a concern for all aspects of government."
"Each agency seems left to its own to set a plan without oversight, coordination, or direction."
The city's financial concerns may lead it to underfund compliance efforts.
"Achieving the reforms set forth by the settlement agreement, to which the defendants agreed, comes with some costs," the report said. Sufficient staffing, for example, is necessary, it said.
Barrett has proposed a $300,000 budget for settlement implementation in 2021, the same amount as this year.
The report said bluntly that Barrett and the Common Council should appoint new Fire and Police Commission members to fill two vacancies and the seat held by a commissioner whose term has expired. Commission members are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the council.
"The vacancies limit the roles for interested community members, and consequently also limit points of access for the community," the report said. "There are likely many qualified individuals in the city who would be interested in serving, so it is unclear why the vacancies remain....The settlement agreement envisions a more robust and effective FPC and the demands on the FPC will only expand with the work toward compliance."
"It is imperative that the Mayor and Common Council act to fill these vacant positions," the report said.
By Gretchen Schuldt
Municipalities would be required to maintain police funding at current levels or lose state aid, under a package of police-related bills to be introduced by Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine).
The requirement would have a devastating impact on local governments that are under enormous economic stress because of revenue lost during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Tony Evers called the Legislature into session on Monday to consider his nine-bill police reform package. Wanggard responded Thursday by announcing eight police-related bills of his own. State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) is a co-sponsor on all eight bills and Rep. Janel Brandtjen, (R-Menomonee Falls) is a co-sponsor of a bill dealing with the make-up and operation of Milwaukee and Madison fire and police commissions, according to the Racine County Eye.
Below are the Legislative Reference Bureau's summaries of the Wanggaard bills.
Bill 1: This bill creates an independent use of force review advisory board. Under the bill, the board conducts independent investigations of deaths and serious injuries to law enforcement officers and deaths and serious injuries to others resulting from an action or omission of a law enforcement officer. The board must recommend measures to reduce the probabilities of deaths and serious injuries from similar causes and must also review its previous recommendations to determine if they were implemented and evaluate their effectiveness.
Under the bill, if the board conducts an investigation of an incident involving an officer that resulted in death or a serious injury, its investigation may begin only after any mandatory or criminal investigation concludes. The bill grants the board access to all complete criminal and administrative investigation case files, models or renderings used in an investigation, and evidence and also to the state crime laboratories. The board must acquire experts and use advisors as needed to perform its duties; the experts and advisors include a certified firearms instructor, a defensive and arrest tactics instructor, an expert in cultural competency, a master instructor in professional communications, a master instructor in tactical response, a victim advocate, and a mental health professional.
When the board completes an investigation, it must prepare an advisory report to be made public and be submitted to the legislature, all law enforcement agencies, and the Law Enforcement Standards Board. The report must identify events or developments that led to the officer-involved death or serious injury and make recommendations to prevent similar incidents in the future. The report must provide demographic information about each incident, share best practices used by law enforcement officers, and recommend practices that the board learns when exercising its review.
Note: The makeup of the board would be heavily weighted toward law enforcement and police unions. According to the bill, the board would include
Bill 2: Current law requires each law enforcement agency to have a publicly available policy or standard regulating the use of force by law enforcement officers. This bill requires each such policy or standard to provide the instances in which a use of force must be reported, how to report a use of force, and a requirement that officers who engage in or observe a reportable use of force must report it. This bill also prohibits disciplining a law enforcement officer for reporting a violation of an agency's policy or standard regarding the use of force.
Bill 3: Current law requires each law enforcement agency to prepare a policy regarding the use of force by its law enforcement officers and to make the policy available for public scrutiny. This bill requires the law enforcement agency to post its policy on the law enforcement agency website or, if the agency does not have one, on a site maintained by the municipality over which the law enforcement agency has jurisdiction. Under the bill, if the policy is changed, the law enforcement agency must ensure that the updated policy is posted as soon as practically possible but no later than one year after the change is made. The bill also requires a law enforcement agency to prominently post a means to request a copy of the policy and to provide a copy of the current policy at no charge as soon as practically possible but no later than three business days after a request is made.
Bill 4: This bill makes a number of changes that affect the board of fire and police commissioners of a 1st class city (presently only Milwaukee), the board of police and fire commissioners of a 2nd class city with a population of 200,000 or more (presently only Madison) (jointly referred to as affected PFC boards), and the protective services departments of 1st class cities and 2nd class cities with a population of 200,000 or more (jointly, populous cities). The changes include altering the makeup of affected PFC boards, requiring certain training for affected PFC board members, establishing certain requirements related to hiring and oversight of chiefs of protective services departments in populous cities, creating an executive director or independent monitor position in populous cities, and altering the judicial review process for police and fire department disciplinary cases in a 1st class city.
Under current law, the board of fire and police commissioners of a 1st class city consists of seven or nine members selected by the mayor. Boards of police and fire commissioners of other cities, including a 2nd class city, consist of five members selected by the mayor. Under this bill, a board of fire and police commissioners of a 1st class city consists of nine members selected by the mayor, and confirmed by the common council. The board of a police and fire commission of a 2nd class city with a population of 200,000 or more consists of seven members selected by the mayor. Each of these boards must contain at least one member selected from a list provided by each of 1) the employee association that represents nonsupervisory law enforcement officers and 2) the employee association that represents fire fighters.
This bill provides a method for selecting members of affected PFC boards when the mayor fails to make an appointment to a vacant position. If the mayor fails to make an appointment within 120 days of the occurrence of a vacancy, the common council may make the appointment, except when the vacant position is one that must be filled from one of the lists described above. In this case, the association that provided the list may make the appointment without confirmation by the common council.
In a 1st class city, a three-member panel of the board of fire and police commissioners may conduct and decide a trial to evaluate a complaint against a member of the police or fire department. This bill specifies that when a three-member panel conducts such a trial, at least one member of the panel must have professional law enforcement experience if the accused is a police officer, and at least one such member must have professional fire fighting experience if the accused is a fire fighter.
The bill also requires each member of an affected PFC board to take a training class provided by the city in which it operates. The training class must cover the mission and role of the board, the procedures that apply to disciplinary hearings, the conduct policies of the police and fire departments, and use of force guidelines of the police department. A member may not participate in any action of the board until he or she completes the training class and any other training required by the city.
The bill also creates the office of executive director in a 1st class city and the office of independent monitor in a 2nd class city with a population of 200,000 or more. Despite the different titles, these positions have the same duties and requirements. This person acts as the principal staff of an affected PFC board, reviews certain situations or investigations involving the police or fire department, evaluates police and fire department policies and practices, and issues periodic reports to the public relating to the status and outcome of complaints that have been filed. The executive director or independent monitor is appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the common council and serves a four-year term, at the pleasure of the board.
This bill also specifies the following related to affected PFC boards:
1. When an affected PFC board appoints a protective services chief, the board must meet in closed session with representatives of the employee association whose members will serve under the proposed chief.
2. When an affected PFC board appoints a protective services chief, the board must hold at least two public meetings to hear comments from residents of the city and other interested persons.
3. When a member is appointed to an affected PFC board, the common council must hold two public hearings that include public comment periods with regard to the appointments.
4. If an affected PFC board accepts an additional application for chief of police after the application period for accepting these applications has closed, the board must reopen the application period for an additional seven days.
5. If the common council adopts a resolution by a two-thirds majority to conduct a performance review of a protective services chief, an affected PFC board must conduct the review and provide a written report to the common council.
6. A PFC board member may not continue in office after the expiration of his or her term, unless reappointed and, in a 1st class city, confirmed.
Currently, if a board of fire and police commissioners of a 1st class city discharges, suspends, or reduces in rank an officer or member of the police or fire department, the disciplined person may appeal that decision to a circuit court. This bill specifies the scope of review under which a court is to review an appeal of this sort. Under the bill, a court must review the evidence independently and without deference to the board's findings; must reverse the board's decision if it finds that fairness or correctness of the action has been impaired by material or procedural errors; and must set aside or modify the board's decision if it finds that the board erroneously interpreted a provision of law, or may remand the case to the board for further action that is consistent with current law. The bill also requires the court to reverse the board's decision if it finds that the board's exercise of discretion is outside of its delegated powers; is inconsistent with a board rule, policy, or practice, unless the board's deviation is adequately explained; or violates the constitution or the statutes. The bill also authorizes a court to take additional testimony, depositions, and interrogatories, and to grant requests for additional discovery.
Bill 5: This bill establishes a $600,000 grant program, administered by the Department of Justice, for cities with a population of 60,000 or more to fund community-oriented policing house programs.
Bill 6: Under this bill, if in any year a municipality decreases the amount of its municipal budget dedicated to hiring, training, and retaining law enforcement officers so that it is less than the amount dedicated to that purpose in the previous year, the municipality will receive a county and municipal aid payment that is reduced by the amount of that decrease. The bill provides that the amount of all such reductions will be distributed to the municipalities that did not reduce their law enforcement budgets in proportion to each municipality's share of the total amount of county and municipal aid payments. Furthermore, the amount of the reduced payment that the municipality receives becomes the amount of county and municipal aid that the municipality will receive in subsequent years.
The reductions under the bill do not apply to a municipality that transfers responsibility for providing law enforcement to another local unit of government or that enters into a cooperative agreement to share law enforcement responsibilities with another local unit of government.
Bill 7: Current law requires law enforcement agencies to develop policies on the use of force by law enforcement officers in the performance of their duties. This bill provides that a law enforcement agency may not authorize in its use of force policy the use of choke holds by law enforcement officers, except in life threatening situations or in self-defense.
Bill 8: Current law requires the Department of Justice to collect certain information concerning criminal offenses committed in Wisconsin. This bill requires DOJ to collect data and publish an annual report on law enforcement use of force incidents, including incidents where there was a shooting, where a firearm was discharged in the direction of a person (even if there was no injury), and where other serious bodily harm resulted from the incident. The bill requires certain demographic information to be collected about each such incident, and reported annually by DOJ on its Internet site.
By Gretchen Schuldt
The Milwaukee Police Department absorbed 62 cents of every new dollar that went toward city departments' operating budgets over the last decade, budget figures show.
That left just 38 cents per dollar to split among the 18 other city departments, including the Health Department, the Milwaukee Public Library, the Department of Neighborhood Services, the Fire Department, and the Department of Public Works.
"We are looking at how we staff the Police Department and what they respond to....We're going to have to rethink a lot of things," said Dennis Yaccarino, city budget and management director.
The Police Department's operating budget increased by $80.5 million, from $216.8 million to $297.4 million, from 2010 to 2020.
The 18 remaining departments received combined general budget increases of $48.9 million from 2010 to 2020.
All departmental budgets rose $129.4 million over that time, from $527.8 million to $657.2 million.
The number of authorized Police Department full-time positions funded through the general budget fell slightly, by 60, from 2,687 to 2,627, over the 10 years, while the number of positions in the other departments fell from 3,117 to 3,103, a decline of 14, according to budget documents.
Police Department spending is sure to be a contentious topic during the Common Council debate over the 2021 city budget. Activists want to cut up to $75 million from the police budget in 2021 and allocate the amount to other purposes. The council has suggested a 10% trim for the Police Department.
The city's revenue picture has been upended by the coronavirus crisis. Meanwhile, protesters and others have demanded, since the death of George Floyd in May, changes in policing practices.
The city will renew its efforts for an increased sales tax that could be used to help out the city budget, Yaccarino said.
The city this year will publicly discuss budget initiatives – including those involving the police – before Mayor Tom Barrett's proposed budget is released in September, Yaccarino said. City officials are working to increase both public understanding of budget issues and input into the process, he said.
The city is seeking input through a budget survey and has posted a tool that allows residents to build their own budget. Both are here.
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