Edward Flynn retires Friday after more than 45 years in law enforcement, including 30 as a police chief, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. When he first came to Milwaukee a decade ago, some theorized he took the job as a stepping-stone. Now he is leaving the city as its longest-serving chief since Harold Breier, who held the post for 20 years. Flynn, 69, arrived in 2008, heralded as a “change-agent” and only the second outside chief in department’s history. He is credited with modernizing the agency, introducing new technologies and raising the profile of the department in national policing circles.
His decisions in Milwaukee have not always been popular — and some continued to generate criticism throughout his tenure — but they have substantially changed how the agency operates. “He did bring to the Milwaukee Police Department a whole world of information and a whole world of connections,” said Michael Scott of the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing. “He’s got a strong personality,” Scott said. “When he thinks he’s right, he thinks he’s right and he’ll let you know that.” In the past few years, he came to be seen as standoffish by political leaders, activists and some residents and rank-and-file officers. Major city police chiefs usually don’t last longer than three years in a given department. Flynn made it 10. “That’s like a lifetime in policing,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum. Flynn was well-respected in national policing circles throughout this tenure, despite criticism he faced in Milwaukee. “He was one of the voices everyone looked to,” said Charles Ramsey, former police chief in Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Six of the lowest homicide totals in 25 years occurred in Flynn’s tenure, though murders spiked in 2015 and 2016 to totals last seen in the early ‘90s. Citizen complaints dropped off sharply and use-of-force has declined.