In the midst of the community’s anger over the homicide death of Derrek Williams while in police custody, we were again reminded Tuesday of another outrage committed against the community by the Milwaukee Police Department. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and MPD Chief Edward Flynn announced four Milwaukee police officers have been charged with felonies related to alleged illegal strip and rectal searches of suspects for evidence.
Three of the four officers have been charged with a total of seven felonies for midsconduct in public office, conducting or being a party to an illegal cavity search, and illegal strip search. The fourth officer has been charged with 25 felony counts related to sexual assault.
According to state law and police procedures, officers cannot conduct cavity searches; only medical personnel can conduct these type of searches, but not before police obtain a search warrant.
The two incidences makes one wonder what the heck is going on with the MPD. While there has been past misconduct committed by officers–most notably the Frank Jude beating case–before Flynn took command of the police force, it seems incidences such as the two recent ones have increased under Flynn’s watch, who himself has come under scrutiny as it relates to his personal life.
We noted in a recent editorial the Williams case reminded us of the Ernest Lacy case nearly 30 years ago. That case and the subsequent community protests drove the notorious former chief Harold Brier from office and ushered in a series of then much needed reforms to a department that, under Brier, was a feared organization with little to no regard or respect for the citizenary (especially Black Milwaukeeans and other minorities), and who violated civil and human rights of residents on a daily basis.
Fast forward to 2012 and that same fear by and disregard for Milwaukeeans–regardless of color–is alive and well under the current chief who too often sides with officers whose actions have been shown to be overboard and insensitive to the extreme.
Just as justice is swift with criminals, we expect justice to be just as quick and thorough in the case of the four officers who have greviously violated the public’s trust with their outlaw behavior.
As to whether or not Flynn should resign or be fired as the community and some of its leaders are demanding, the jury–for lack of a better term–is still out on that subject.
Flynn should be credited for immediately launching an internal investigation–with the help of the DA’s office and the FBI–into the allegations brought against the four officers by citizens who filed complaints with the department related to the illegal searches.
Plus, crime has gone down during Flynn’s tenure…though recent revelations regarding faulty crime reporting methods by officers have cast a shadow over that achievement; conjuring questions as to just how safe are our city’s streets?
We trust Mayor Tom Barrett will do the right thing in the end as it relates to the police chief. His unwavering trust in the chief and his abilities will trump any demands for Flynn’s ouster; unless new revelations come to the fore as to police misconduct.
The ball is in the mayor’s court. His next move will be determined by Flynn and his department’s future actions as it protects and serves the public.