Recent criminal cases involving Milwaukee police officers share a common thread, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: A disproportionate number came into the department as police aides, a program that hires teenagers as clerical help and puts them on a track to become officers. Former police aides make up 15 percent of the force, but they account for at least half of the six officers criminally charged since Feb. 12. Three of the four officers suspended in a major beating case were hired as aides on the same day. David Heard, executive director of the Fire and Police Commission, which hires officers, has asked to meet with Police Chief Nannette Hegerty to discuss the aide program.
“Is it helping? Is it hurting? Should something be changed? Should requirements be changed?” said Heard. He added that officers have told him that some former aides lack certain life experiences because they moved from high school directly into the “police culture.” Another official said the aide program is an excellent recruiting tool that has groomed some of the top leadership in the department. Nineteen percent of the 308 supervisors were aides, including nearly half of the lieutenants of detectives.