By Dylan Deprey
After a week into the New Year, Milwaukee had found itself staring at a “Help Wanted” sign hanging from Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn’s office.
For some communities, there was an outpouring homage to Chief Flynn, who had served Milwaukee for the past ten years. For others, it meant a new beginning, having experienced traumatizing situations after being in contact with Milwaukee police.
But, whatever the case may be, the City of Milwaukee is now in search for someone to combat the downward spiral of violence, but do so while re-building trust in a community where many have lost faith.
In terms of rebuilding that trust, the Fire and Police Commission (FPC) have announced the new Milwaukee Collaborative Reform Initiative (MKECR) web portal to give residents an opportunity to educate themselves and comment on local policing issues.
Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton said the website was to keep the policing reform process as transparent as possible, and to ensure the public had a variety of options to share their opinions.
“Input from the community remains among our highest priorities as we move toward the implementation of recommendations that are intended to improve police- community relations and trust,” Hamilton said in a press release.
The web portal is in response to the Department of Justice (DOJ) draft report that was requested after the officer involved shooting of Dontre Hamilton in 2015. The final report was stalled and ultimately terminated by the US DOJ as police reform was designated for local government. A draft report was ultimately released by the Journal Sentinel in which it described a MPD that pushed community policing, but were far from successful.
“After the decision by the US DOJ that that Milwaukee’s Collaborative Review process would be halted it was clear to all involved that we would need to find our own way to see the process to completion,” said Steven DeVougas, FPC chairman. “I’m pleased that our community is engaged in this work and look forward to the continuation of this process.”
As part of the DOJ report, the City held community engagement meetings to collect the communities’ opinion and suggestions. The Common Council formed the Collaborative Community Committee (CCC), a group of engaged local community members, to be the voice their neighborhoods. Markasa Tucker, African American Roundtable, director, was made head chair of the committee.
The CCC urged community members to use the MKECR portal to provide their responses and educate themselves by reading the US DOJ draft report.
“We want residents to know that the CCC is working very closely with the FPC to ensure the process is transparent and accessible to all residents in the City of Milwaukee,” Tucker said in a press release.
Advocates and community resource groups like the Freedom Fighters have been outspoken on their issues with MPD. Nasheka Bryant, Freedom Fighers co-founder, wrote a letter to the FPC on their issues and solutions for policing.
“We regularly find ourselves having direct contact and interaction with officers of the Milwaukee Police Department, its leadership, and members of the community at large. This provides us with the unfortunate capacity to bear witness to many of the factors that contribute to the injurious relationship between the Milwaukee Police Department and the community, giving us a plain sight view of the impact this toxic relationship has on the citizens of these communities,” said Bryant in a letter to the FPC on behalf of the Freedom Fighters.
The letter goes on to state that the Freedom Fighters agree on serving on behalf of the community in rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the people they were sworn to serve.
Vaun Mayes, Program the Parks founder, said he thought the web portal was a step in the right direction, but hoped that there would be more community voice in the new Chief selection.
“We already have issues with police officers being from other cities, now we’re looking at a new police chief from different states?” Mayes said.
Mayes, Bryant and other community members spoke during a FPC Public Comment session on Jan. 25
To visit the MKECR web portal visit: http://city.milwaukee.gov/MKECR