Keith Stanley

Could Milwaukee Be the Next Ferguson?

Five reasons why it won't -- and seven reasons why it might be next.

By - Sep 1st, 2014 02:15 pm
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Milwaukee demonstrators protest excessive force by police. (Photo by Andrea Waxman)

Milwaukee demonstrators protest excessive force by police. (Photo by Andrea Waxman)

Keith Stanley is the Executive Director of the Avenues West Association and Staff Assistant to Common Council President Willie Hines.

I have heard that Milwaukee will be the next Ferguson, Mo.  I disagree with that statement. Here are my reasons Milwaukee will not be the next Ferguson.

#1 – The Nonprofit Community
Milwaukee may have too many nonprofits and programs; however, they are addressing a need. City Youth Development, Social Development Commission, Running Rebels, Urban Underground, Neighborhood House, City of Milwaukee Earn and Learn, Ald. Hamilton’s “Let’s Be The Change” — and the list goes on of very diverse programming that engages youth.

#2 – Police Chief Edward Flynn

If you have ever had the opportunity to have a one-on-one with the chief, I believe you will be struck by one in particular characteristic: the chief is real. He understands the reality of crime, racism and urban life. In fact, he understands it better than most Wisconsinites.

#3 – Residency Requirement

Having cops who care and have the experience of working, living and understanding both minority and urban communities is really important.

#4 – Fewer Dense Urban Centers

Milwaukee, working with local and national developers, has been really good at spreading, diversifying and supporting populations. Although we have segregation, we do not have high-rise, high-density apartment buildings like Cabrini Green was in Chicago. The multi-million dollar Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee project in Westlawn is a good example.

#5 – It’s Not An Option

It’s not an option for Milwaukee’s young black community to riot and loot. To say that it could not happen would not be accurate; however, there have been many opportunities and such behavior was not the outcome.

Here are some reasons that Milwaukee could become Ferguson.

#1 – Politically Deaf Politicians

I like some of the people who are declaring and exploring a mayoral candidacy. However, some seem to be politically deaf when it comes to youth, in particular black youth.

#2 – Militarization of the Police

This is an issue across the country and specifically in minority communities.

#3 – Removal of the Residency Requirement

Less diversity, less experienced cops and a lack of understanding of the urban dynamic continues to destroy what little trust there is between communities of color and the police force.

#4 – Hyper-segregation in Our Communities

People who live together understand each other better. As we continue to see more hyper-segregation in Milwaukee people do not have the opportunity to understand, work and depend on each other. It is these factors that make a city such a dynamic place to live.

#5 – Outlets for youth

We need outlets for youth. Funding and supporting youth programming is important and provides an outlet for their energy.

#6 – Media

Media has and will highlight any and all negative aspects of minority communities while flagrantly ignoring the good stories, people and organizations that make this community very special.

#7 – Absence of Black Parents

We need more black parents heavily involved in their child’s life. Engaging their children at school, in community and in extra-curricular activities is so important.

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

12 thoughts on “Could Milwaukee Be the Next Ferguson?”

  1. Curtiss Harris says:

    Keith,

    Well done. Too bad this community, as well as other communities, is tone deaf when it comes to racism, especially of the institutional variety. There really are too many rationalizations when it comes to incidences involving obviously cold blooded killings by trained professional law enforcement persons.

  2. Andy says:

    A common theme on this list comes down to trust. Does the community trust their police department? If so, they will wait to find out if a police shooting was justified or not… if they don’t trust their police department, they will just assume that an unarmed man must be a victim and ignore whether or not the man was actually a threat to the cop.

  3. Keith Stanley says:

    Curt, thanks! I took some time to really look at the issue objectively but there are some tone deaf organizations and communities in addition to politicians.

    Andy, I totally agree, it does come down to trust. Trust is needed from both sides of the equation.

  4. PMD says:

    When it takes 4 months (and counting) to release a report about a policeman shooting a man 15 times, it is easy to understand why the trust isn’t there. A report shouldn’t be rushed, but it shouldn’t take 4+ months either. When, on average, two black males are shot and killed by white police officers on a weekly basis in this country, it is easy to understand why trust isn’t there.

  5. Andy says:

    PMD, throwing out random stats like that doesn’t help either.

  6. PMD says:

    It’s not a random stat Andy. It’s a horrifying stat, and it partially explains why there is a lack of trust between many black communities and police departments.

  7. Andy says:

    It’s random because of a lack of context. It doesn’t even attempt to veil the fact that it lumps “justified” shootings with “unjustified” together. As if everyone one of them were shot because of their skin color. Would it matter if .1% of those were “rogue cops” and 99.9% were because the police officers life was in danger? Compared to if it was 25/75, 50/50 or 75/25?

  8. PMD says:

    I am not suggesting that all were unjustified or that a majority were unjustified. But put yourself in the shoes of an African American. You are constantly reading about the police shooting and killing unarmed black males. The police officer is rarely if ever prosecuted. Reports take forever to be released and always (or nearly always) exonerate the officer. This is a regular occurrence. And it does not mean that all police officers are bad or that most are bad. My uncle was a cop and my brother-in-law is in MPD. The former was a good man and the latter is a good man. I have a ton of respect for police officers. But it’s hard to blame African Americans for a lack of trust when a black male being shot and killed by the police is common enough to happen twice a week, and there are hardly ever any consequences.

  9. Andy says:

    How useful is that stat though? Whites commit about 1.5x’s more felony’s than blacks, yet twice as many whites are killed by police than blacks. Shouldn’t they be MORE afraid just by looking at the numbers? This is why numbers by themselves don’t tell us anything…

    “Unjustified” shootings happen… but they’re not the norm. Getting worked up, protesting, and rioting without knowing the full situation is anything but helpful. Yes, these things do indeed take time. That’s how it is when you want to get things right. I’m far more concerned with the 100+ murders in Milwaukee than I am police officer shootings in Milwaukee for which I can count on one hand on a yearly basis.

    It would be more productive to do a public education campaign on safely walking across the street (pedestrian deaths) than it would be to eliminate all police shooting deaths.

    So again, there are indeed unjustified deaths… but as a matter of perspective there are greater concerns in our community. Largely I think that’s something that helps foster trust, not cause more distrust.

  10. PMD says:

    Yes there are definitely other areas of concern. I never said otherwise. The 100+ murders in Milwaukee are great cause for concern and should not be ignored. But we need to hold police to a high standard, and it is hardly no big deal that so many unarmed black males and shot and killed by police officers every year, and that those officers are hardly ever held accountable. It is understandable for members of the African American community to be wary of police departments (and no that does not excuse rioting). Protests are another matter. Sometimes they are perfectly justified. What else do you do when you feel like your community is ignored by people in power? Again, walk a mile in their shoes Andy.

  11. Andy says:

    PMD, you used a statistic with no context as reasoning for why Milwaukee could become the next Ferguson. Other statistics show us why it hopefully won’t, and shouldn’t be. If you agree this is about trust, then having such a low frequency of deaths at the hands of police, justified or not, is one piece of building that trust.

  12. PMD says:

    But I didn’t say Milwaukee could become the next Ferguson. All I spoke of was trust between the community and the police department. Never said a thing about Milwaukee becoming Ferguson.

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