Saturday, October 6, 2007

You want to clean up crime in Milwaukee? Start by cleaning up Milwaukee law enforcement!

It seems that everyone has a take on Milwaukee's crime problem -- even folks like yours truly and Paul Soglin, Madison's former hippie mayor -- but the reality is that you can't clean up the streets of Milwaukee until law enforcement cleans up its own house.

Sure, Chief Nanette points out to the reduction in the crime rate by the overtime-fueled extra patrols this summer but that's smoke and mirrors.

The crime rate, folks, is based on eight categories developed by the FBI in the 1920's. Much of today's crime doesn't fit in those eight pigeonholes and thus politicians can play around with the crime rate and claim success. The nitwits in the news media are too stupid these days to see through that and dutifully reprint such drivel.

Yes, throw more cops on the streets and you are likely to get some results. It's only common sense, for example, that when people know where the squad car sits every day with radar that most people will slow down.

But the news is replete with examples of a corrupt and inept police department -- civil rights violations by officers, mismanagement at the top, a police union that covers up for and defends crooked cops, massive overtime spending, an internal affairs mechanism that doesn't work and a public with less than complete confidence in law enforcement.

Over at the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department there's a sheriff with an ego big enough for its own ZIP code who talks tough about crime but really is a cash-register-justice wimp. Chief Nanette chases the hookers off the street corners and Sheriff Dave's county mounties love to park on the side of I-94 around College Avenue to pick off those speeders right where the speed limit drops from 65 to 55 miles per hour -- all of this while gangs and violence go virtually unchecked and witnesses unprotected.

The not-so-humble sheriff even has his own coins that he'll sell for ten bucks. So far only 56 have been sold -- thankfully.

His traffic enforcement isn't geared toward saving lives and property -- no, it's the run up the meter.

Get a speeding ticket in Milwaukee county and you'll go to court where a deputy will ask you who wants a two-point defective speedometer ticket for about $180 or a zero-point parking ticket for $280 which goes straight to the county coffers. It's all about the money, thank you.

Cleaning up crime in Milwaukee starts from within and that means cleaning up law enforcement. You can't expect the public to support law enforcement agencies that lack credibility and the task of the new police chief (and the present sheriff, if he can stop looking at himself in the mirror) will be to clean house.

Officers and deputies need to get the message that it's the right way or the highway and no excuses will be accepted. The police union needs to decide if it's part of the solution or part of the problem and Brad, Bob and the boys sticking up for bad cops had its 15 minutes of fame long ago. The mayor and common council -- who apparently can't agree on the time of day unless there's something in it for them -- have to be willing to fight the battle to clean house, even it means sparring with the police union in court until the union gets the message.

And former Chief Harold Breier wasn't all wrong. The city needs tough -- but honest -- 1930's style policing. As Harold once said, "Every officer should be a community relations officer." (Too bad that didn't play out at the time but it's still worth repeating.)

You want to clean up crime in Milwaukee? Start with cleaning house.

Will it happen? Well, I think I have a better chance to win the lottery or at least become the new poster child for Jenny Craig.


Dad29 said...

Well, yah!

But be careful here.

If only a lily-clean cop-shop can make arrests, then the arrests will come to an immediate halt.

Spent a little time with a retired LEO today--we talked about Milwaukee's problem (he was part of MPD).

He does not think that the crime problem in Mke will EVER be solved, period.

How's that for good news?

Zachary said...

"He does not think that the crime problem in Mke will EVER be solved, period."

dad, that's because there is no "magic solution" to the crime problem. We're never really going to be able to eliminate crime completely, so it shouldn't come as any great shock to hear a former LEO say the crime problem in Milwaukee will never be solved. Sure, we can work to reduce crime - especially violent crime - but it's never going away completely.

Now if Milwaukee's really going to make a meaningful dent in crime rates in the city, they're going to need a chief who's going to encourage officers to find the right balance between having zero tolerance for criminals while still making sure to play within the rules. Unfortunately, the Milwaukee Police Department has gotten a bad reputation because of the multiple incidents of corruption and criminal behavior by its officers in recent years, but I do believe the vast majority of Milwaukee police officers are great at their jobs, if given a chance to do their jobs the right way.

Dad29 said...

Like you Zach, I don't believe that Milwaukee will be a "zero-crime" town--nor anyplace else.

Yah, the MPD has problems.

But that's in its recruitment and incentives. Recruitment b/c they are obviously hiring some real assholes.

Incentives b/c 'making the bust' has over-ridden common sense.

RAG said...

The solution to the crime problem comes largely from within the community -- person by person, house by house, block by block.

As such law enforcement must have credibility within the community in order to be effective.

With 34 years law enforcment experience, I believe it's entirely possible to be ethical and effective. Those who don't have no place in law enforcement.