Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Citizen Group Unhappy with MPD’s Community-Oriented Policing

Community Collaborative Commission says MPD's latest report falls short of recommendations.

The Fire and Police Commission ordered Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales, shown during a community listening session in January, to create a community-oriented policing plan with the Community Collaborative Commission, other community leaders and the Milwaukee Common Council. Photo by Sam Woods/NNS.

The Fire and Police Commission ordered Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales, shown during a community listening session in January, to create a community-oriented policing plan with the Community Collaborative Commission, other community leaders and the Milwaukee Common Council. Photo by Sam Woods/NNS.

After years of debate, Milwaukee police and residents continue to weigh what community-oriented policing should look like in the city.

And so far, they remain on different pages.

On one side, the Community Collaborative Commission, or CCC, continues its push for developing standards for community-oriented policing as defined by nationwide reports of the best practices.

On the other is the MPD, which the CCC accuses of not collaborating in good faith – a charge the MPD denies.

CCC chairman Fred Royal of the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP said this week that the MPD continues to offer a “piecemeal approach to what really needs to occur.”

“They’ve done this in a silo by themselves, without consideration of the community,” he said.

But MPD spokeswoman Sgt. Sheronda Grant said the department wants to work with the CCC. In an email to NNS on Thursday, she said: “We look forward to hearing back from each member regarding their recommendations.”

At issue is a draft report the MPD sent Wednesday to members of the CCC on community policing.

That report came on the heels of Monday’s meeting of the Fire and Police Commission, which ordered the MPD to draft a community-oriented policing plan with the CCC, other community leaders and the Milwaukee Common Council. It was one of 11 directives the commission issued to Police Chief Alfonso Morales.

The drafted document is riddled with shortcomings that are contrary to the definition of true community-oriented policing, Royal said.

The issue of community policing isn’t new to Royal and other leaders of the CCC— it’s one of the main recommendations they made in their 2019 report

And that’s what rankles Royal.

“They have had since November of 2019 to do this,” he said, “but now you’re going to wait until you get a directive, and now you’re going to rush it through as if you had collaboration with the CCC?”

(The police department has requested the group’s feedback by Friday.)

Origins of the CCC

The seeds of the CCC were planted in late 2015 after former Police Chief Edward Flynn requested the U.S. Department of Justice do a voluntary review of the MPD, a decision sparked when a Milwaukee police officer shot and killed Dontre Hamilton in 2014.

In 2016, the Department of Justice released an incomplete report to MPD, the Milwaukee Common Council and the FPC with their 56 findings and 110 recommendations on building trust between MPD and the community. That same summer, unrest in Sherman Park erupted in response to the killing of Sylville Smith by a Milwaukee police officer.

The report was leaked and published by the Journal Sentinel in August 2017. Community leaders saw the unfinished work as an opportunity to find out what Milwaukee neighbors felt could be solutions to better police and community relations.

Led by the African American Roundtable, a coalition that seeks to improve the quality of life for Black communities, local groups informally organized to take on the task of finishing the DOJ’s report through community-engaged input.

Former Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton led the council and the mayor to formally establish the CCC in 2017.

That action from the city supported, validated and formalized the work of those organizations and opened the door to critical conversations, said Jeff Roman, a researcher with Derute Consulting Cooperative who conducted analysis of community responses to the DOJ’s findings.

“This was the first time the leadership of the Common Council really entrusted a process and put it in the hands of the community,” said Roman. (Roman was the former project manager for News414, a service journalism collaboration between NNS and two other nonprofit newsrooms, Wisconsin Watch and Outlier Media.).

The report and recommendations

Over the course of six months, 18 community organizations hosted 45 community conversations through “Community Hubs,” including three sponsored by the Milwaukee Police Department. The FPC created an online community feedback portal as another outlet to gather perspectives.

Royal said the conversations with community members and law enforcement were wide and deliberate, and the ultimate conclusions were similar.

“People want to have a comfortable quality of life,” he said.

Based off the findings, the CCC recommended the MPD fully embrace community-oriented policing, starting with looking at national processes and replicating them in Milwaukee.

President Obama’s Taskforce On 21st Century Policing 2015 report and the more recent The New Era on Public Safety 2019 report are two guiding documents nationwide on how to institute community-oriented policing. They call on lawmakers and police departments to adapt and implement best practices to ensure fair, safe and effective policing.

True commitment to community-oriented policing can be cultivated by following these reports and their recommendations, Royal said.

From committee to commission

This month, the Common Council’s Policy and Standards Committee’s approved a resolution that allows the CCC to start their strategic planning process on community-oriented policing as an official Commission. Their first meeting is July 29.

In addition, Common Council President Cavalier Johnson appointed four new community members to the commission in June.

Safe and Sound youth program manager Damien Smith is one of them.

In his job, he works closely with young people and police officers, and said he can provide unique perspectives from the two populations.

“I want to continue building bridges between young people, law enforcement and the city officials,” Smith said.

For more information

You can read the CCC report in its entirety here.

The CCC will have its first meeting at 10 a.m. July 29. It can be viewed here.

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

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One thought on “Citizen Group Unhappy with MPD’s Community-Oriented Policing”

  1. Paul Mozina says:

    I want to call your attention to the following directive issued by the FPC on July 20, 2020 to MPD Chief Morales.
    Directive #2 – Community Oriented Policing

    Be it resolved that, the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners of the City of Milwaukee, pursuant to Section 62.50 (23) Wis. Stats, does hereby direct Milwaukee Chief of Police Alfonso Morales to prepare and present promptly a draft of a Community Oriented Policing policy and Standard Operating Procedure in collaboration with the CCC, Community Leaders, the Common Council at the next Policies and Standards Committee meeting. Deadline: July 30, 2020

    Note that Footnote 1 regarding this Directive states:

    A Motion was passed on October 3, 2019 for the creation of the Community Oriented Policing policy and referred to the Policies and Standards Committee.

    Here is a link to the Directives issued to Chief Morales on July 20, 2020

    At that October 3, 2019 referred to in the footnote above, Tammy L. Rivera presented the CCC’s report on the community’s feedback to the DOJ draft report. When asked what was the most important take away for the FPC, she responded with: “That you are genuine about the partnership with the Community.”

    There is no evidence that the FPC in general or, specifically, the FPC’s Policies and Standards Committee did anything in response to this report until the July 2, 2020 meeting, when they allowed Tammy L. Rivera and Fred Royal time to make a more lengthy presentation of the report.

    Here is a link to the video for the July 2, 2020 meeting:

    Please note that the video recording ended prematurely before the discussion and feedback to the CCC report had finished, and I cannot remember if the MPD was asked for feedback.

    The ACLU “Stop and Frisk” Settlement Agreement and Court Order required that: “MPD shall complete a twice per year community policing status report and forward that report to the FPC.” and the Crime and Justice Institute, the entity hired to monitor compliance with the COURT ORDERS, had this to say in their report:

    First Six-Month Report on Non-Compliant Items MARCH 2020
    Page 11.
    SA Paragraph IV.C.6

    “MPD shall complete a twice per year community policing status report and forward that report to the FPC.”Progress Update:MPD had not developed a community policing status report by the time of our first annual report in September 2019. As of the writing of this report, MPD has provided two documents to CJI representing a community policing status report. CJI provided MPD with written and verbal feedback on ways to strengthen the first document. The Department provided to CJI a revised community policing status report on February 28, 2020.

    The Settlement Agreement stipulates that “MPD shall complete a twice per year community policing status report and forward that report to the FPC.” The Settlement Agreement provides no specific direction or explanation of expected content in a status report on community policing. MPD has endeavored to produce a report, but without knowledge of the negotiators’ intent on CJI’s part, it is difficult to assess what is actually expected and whether the reports that MPD has produced meet the intent of the requirement. In our experience across the nation, we have seen community policing reports that vary tremendously in level of detail, the extent to which they are grounded in research and data, the level of community engagement and input, and whether they incorporate long term planning. While it appears that MPD responded to CJI’s suggestions to strengthen the first document submitted, we think it is likely that the breadth of MPD’s most recent report does not represent the intent of the Agreement. It has become clear that gaining additional clarity on the expectations of a community policing status report at the time the Agreement was negotiated would be beneficial to allow CJI to better assess MPD’s submitted report. As such, for the purpose of this six-month report, we find the Defendants to be in process on this requirement.

    Updated Status: In process

    Were the two documents referred to above that the MPD provided to CJI shared with the FPC Executive Director? Were they shared with the FPC Commissioners, especially Commissioner Soler, the Chair of the Policies and Standards Committee, that was charged on October 3, 2019 with creating a Standard Operating Procedure for Community Policing? Clearly, the FPC should have been aware of these documents after receiving this report from CJI. What did they do? Did they reach out to the MPD and help them clarify what their expectations for Community Policing were and what the status report should contain? Did they reach out to the ACLU? Did they reach out to the CCC? There is no evidence on the record that the FPC did ANYTHING in response to this finding in CJI’s report.

    This “slow-walking” and “foot-dragging” by the FPC must stop. We need new leadership at the FPC that takes their responsibilities seriously and takes positive actions to push forward THEIR OWN INITIATIVES and RESOLUTIONS. They declared and resolved on October 3, 2019 to create a Community Oriented Policing policy and have done nothing to move this forward. And now they are demanding that Chief Morales come up with a plan. Are they unaware that the MPD has submitted two related documents to CJI? Have they read these documents?

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