Easier Process Boosts Complaints Vs. Milwaukee Police


More than 180 complaints were filed against Milwaukee police officers in the first half of the year, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The 66 formal ones marked a 13.8 percent increase over that number for early 2008, itself a record year for complaints. The numbers don’t reflect a corresponding increase in police misconduct, said Michael Tobin, executive director of the city’s Fire and Police Commission. He attributes the jump to the fact it has become a lot easier to file a complaint since an overhaul of the commission last year. “We’re much more accessible,” Tobin said, and registering a beef about a police officer “is a much different, much simpler process.”

Prompted by a consultant’s report, a Supreme Court opinion,and growing citizen frustration, the commission announced last year major changes in how it would handle complaints. The Milwaukee Police Association sued the agency, saying the new approach was unfair to officers. The lawsuit was dismissed last month after the commission and the union agreed to new parameters about mediation. Complaints are categorized as being about procedures, services, discourtesy, disparate treatment, or use of force. There were four informal complaints of officers’ use of force, and 12 formal complaints about force. When a citizen has a bigger issue, the commission can send the matter to an outside mediator. “Most people are very satisfied” with that process, Tobin said. “And officers like it because there’s no discipline involved.” He said both sides get a chance to vent, but usually learn something in the process, as well.

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