By State Representative, Leon D. Young
As more and more of the sordid details concerning the illegal cavity and strip searches come to light, the integrity of the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) gets called further and further into question — in the court of public opinion. Over the past two years, four Milwaukee police officers have allegedly engaged in lewd and lascivious police misconduct, if true, this would be a definite affront to both human and individual decency.
Equally, if not more, disconcerting have been some of the questionable actions of Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn, as he tries to limit the perceptual fallout to his beleaguered department. MPD is already under the gun in the wake of a rash of department missteps and blunders: in-custody death of Derek Williams, detaining the mother of a slain boy and reporting inaccurate crime statistics to the FBI and the public.
At a recent news conference, Chief Flynn attempted to curtail the damage by articulating the “appropriate police response” in light of the serious allegations being leveled at his department. Chief Flynn has been quick to assert that “crime cannot be fought with criminality — [The department’s] hardearned reputation has been tarnished.”
However, a closer examination of the actual facts purports a far different reality, in terms of Milwaukee ’s police department and its “contentious relationship” with certain ethnic groups. The charges in the strip search case were the result of complaints from “dozens and dozens” of citizens according to the Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm. Moreover, all the officers charged are white; while, all the men subjected to the unlawful searches are Black.
State Law and police procedures clearly prohibit officers from conducting cavity searches. Only medical personnel are allowed to perform them, and police must obtain a search warrant.
The shocking footage of Derek Williams’ death, while in police custody, is another source of embarrassment. It was obvious even to the untrained eye, which the officers in question were not, that Derek Williams was in real distress and needed medical attention. As the squad car video poignantly reveals, the arresting officers thought Mr. Williams was feigning his condition on that night in question; and, subsequently, elected to ignore his desperate pleads for assistance.
It should be noted that the police department’s Standard Operating Procedures are very specific in this regard:
“It cannot be overemphasized that members shall continually monitor and remain cognizant of the condition of a person in custody, especially when he/she is in restraints. The arrestee may encounter immediate or delayed physical reactions that may be triggered by the change in physical or environmental factors. Therefore, caution and awareness on the part of the officer is constantly required.”
Chief Flynn, along with John Chisholm, Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission Executive Director Michael Tobin, and internal affairs Lieutenant Alfonso Morales all reviewed the video months ago and determined that the officers had done nothing wrong. I beg to differ.
In my opinion, the officers in Derek Williams’ incident were definitely derelict in their duties, by not adhering to established departmental guidelines. Moreover, there have been far too many instances of minorities being victimized by police officers, on Chief Flynn’s watch.
It’s now time for Chief Flynn to resign.