By Karen Stokes
A standing room only crowd at Centennial Hall inside the Milwaukee Public Library Central location, 733 N 8th Street, had Milwaukee residents voicing concerns at a listening session hosted by Department of Justice (DOJ) representatives from Washington, D.C.
The meeting gave many Milwaukee residents the opportunity to discuss positive and negative experiences with the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) and attendees did not waste any time lining up for their chance to speak at the microphone.
A spirited, sometimes disrupted audience had questions about recent incidents of police brutality, how they were treated by the police and challenged the DOJ on how and if things will change.
“You have trust issues, you have collaboration issues and you have bullies on the police force,” one resident said.
Racism, lack of trust for the police and seeking justice were recurring themes throughout the stories told during the session.
One citizen said, “Policemen are a danger to poor communities, basically an occupying force.
With the Dontre Hamilton case, the police acted like they were a private security force for a major corporation, which was Starbucks.”
Next, an Iraq war veteran disclosed that he was living with PTSD and said, “I am a vet and served my country proudly.
Every time I have called the police, they either don’t show or show up two hours later.”
“We have some good officers, but we have some bad ones,” said a citizen. “There’s always some bad apples in the barrel.”
Craig Stingley, father of Corey Stingley, who died at the hands of three customers at a West Allis convenience store, had plenty to say to the DOJ representatives.
“My son was murdered at only 16 years old after he returned merchandise that he took,” said Stingley. “As a family, we came to grips that my son committed an initial act that was out of order.”
Stingley continued, “When he fought to do the right thing, these people made the choice to be the judge and jury.
The Justice Department is responsible for justice for everybody; we have yet to receive justice for my son.”
Another citizen said “My son was murdered in 2002 and I still have no justice.”
Other parents passionately talked about the murders of their children and family members. Stingley along with other parents consoled each other.
Alderman and mayoral candidate, Joe Davis said, “The DOJ got this thing wrong.
We as elected officials are trying to respond to our constituents; we have to make sure we got it right.
The police department has to be open and transparent with us.”
This is the first of several sessions the DOJ plans to conduct as part of an investigation to reform the police department.
The DOJ will be collecting information for the next few months, talking to citizens and the police and then they will make recommendations to help build trust between Milwaukee residents and the MPD.
Many residents said that they hope the DOJ really looks into everyone’s issues.