The Milwaukee Police Department fails the community and its own officers by not communicating clearly, making too many traffic stops and applying inconsistent standards when disciplining officers, according to a draft of a federal report obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The report offers a damning critique of Chief Edward Flynn’s reliance on data, a signature component of his strategy since he took over the department in 2008. Federal evaluators found this approach is having a damaging, if unintended, effect on police-community relations. “MPD’s attention to crime data has distracted the department from the primary tenet of modern policing: trust between law enforcement agencies and the people they protect and serve,” the draft report states.
The report is the result of a U.S. Department of Justice review known as a collaborative reform initiative — a voluntary, non-adversarial process aimed at improving the community’s trust in police. Flynn requested the review in November 2015 amid public outcry after federal prosecutors declined to charge a now-fired officer in the fatal shooting of Dontre Hamilton. Since then, the fatal police shooting of Sylville Smith in August 2016 sparked two nights of violent unrest, and the ACLU of Wisconsin filed a class-action lawsuit accusing the department of illegal stop-and-frisks targeting African-Americans and Latinos. The draft report is not dated, but it appears to have been written in mid-2016. More recent drafts likely have been written, incorporating context and feedback from police officials, correcting mistakes in earlier drafts, and updating information.