The Milwaukee Police Department misreports aggravated assaults as lesser offenses – sometimes even when its own officers are seriously injured on duty, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation found. In March, an on-duty officer was attacked and suffered injuries that sent him to the hospital for treatment. Police arrested the perpetrator for felony battery, but reported the incident to the state and FBI as a “simple assault,” which will not be counted in the violent crime rate.
The same thing happened in a 2011 case. In May, the newspaper found more than 500 serious assaults that were misclassified by the department as lesser offenses from early 2009 through February. The review identified an additional 800 cases that follow the same pattern but couldn’t be verified with available public records. “It is unconscionable to downgrade an assault to an officer – these guys and gals are out there every day risking their lives for the safety of all,” said Mike Crivello, president of the Milwaukee Police Association, the union that represents rank-and-file officers. “To dismiss or downgrade attacks on them is unacceptable.” Police spokeswoman Anne Schwartz said, “We recognize the Journal Sentinel has clearly picked a side and it isn’t the city of Milwaukee. As we have stated previously, we are withholding comment on any additional incidents or potential coding errors until we complete our internal audit, which is currently underway.”