A man dies in Milwaukee police custody after officers fail to get him urgent medical attention. An internal investigation finds police did nothing wrong, despite cuts and bruises all over the man’s body. The community is outraged. The department promises training and changes to the system. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says that 30 years ago, that sequence described the death of Ernest Lacy. The same set of circumstances applies to the 2011 death of Derek Williams.
Police chiefs, city leaders, and state legislators promised new laws, tougher policies, and better training after Lacy’s death and others like it over the past three decades. The same assurances are being made after Williams’ death. Time and again, the department – from commanders to front-line officers – reverts to its old ways once the spotlight fades, a Journal Sentinel investigation found. Then someone else dies and the same reforms are proposed again.. Reforms are not effective unless people take them seriously, said Laura Woliver of the University of South Carolina, who researched the Lacy case for her 1993 book, “From Outrage to Action: The Politics of Grass-Roots Dissent.”