Compiled by MCJ Staff
Mayor Tom Barrett joined two Milwaukee Aldermen in condemning the decision by the Fire and Police Commission to reinstate a Milwaukee Police officer after being fired by Chief Edward Flynn for excessive use of force.
The commission panel rescinded the firing and gave Schoen, who had appealed his firing, a 60-day suspension.
MPD Officer Richard Schoen was fired by Flynn for punching a woman in the face while she was handcuffed in the back of a squad car in the District 7 police station garage after a traffic stop September 22, 2011.
Schoen is reportedly seen on the squad car’s dashboard camera punching the woman, Jeanine Tracy. He is then seen dragging Tracy out of the squad care by her hair.
In a press statement, the mayor strongly disagreed with the Fire and Police Commission’s decision.
“I believe the action the panel took sends the entirely wrong message to members of the police department and to the community,” Barrett said.
“In an interview following the hearing Officer Schoen stated, ‘I still feel I was somewhat justified.’ Obviously, Officer Schoen did not get the message the 60 day suspension was intended to deliver.”
Saying she may not agree with Chief Flynn on everything, Alderman Coggs believed the chief was right when he chose to fire Schoen. She was critical of the commission, questioning whether or not it was the appropriate body to make disciplinary decisions about police officers.
“Our commission is the only one structured like it in the nation,” Coggs said. “I believe it is out of tune with the community.”
Coggs noted out of approximately 300 citizen complaints filed with the Fire and Police Commission against Milwaukee officers last year, only one resulted in disciplinary action against an officer.
“I believe it may be time to either restructure or eliminate the commission, and the laws that govern its existence.”
Council President Hines said Schoen’s reinstatement sets a dangerous precedent.
“Police officers are not above the law and must be held accountable for their actions,” said Hines in a statement. “By terminating Officer Schoen, Chief Flynn had demonstrated just that.
“The Fire and Police Commission decision to reinstate Officer Schoen sends a frightening message to the community and sets a dangerous precedent for the Milwaukee Police Department, and should absolutely be corrected.”
We join with Alderman Milele Coggs, Common Council President and Alderman Willie Hines, and Mayor Tom Barrett in condemning the outrageous decision by the Fire and Police Commission to reinstate Milwaukee Police Officer Richard Schoen after he was fired for hitting a handcuffed woman in the head in the back of a squad car, which was captured by the car’s video cam.
All three city officials are also correct when they say in respective statements the Commission’s decision sends a dangerous message to other MPD officers that they can get away with disrespecting the city’s Black and other minority citizens.
After all, Schoen himself felt the decision vindicated his action towards Jeanine Tracy over one year ago during a traffic stop.
That statement, in and of itself, tells us the attitude of some officers on the MPD might well be racist in nature, which runs counter to what Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said during an exclusive MCJ interview recently (which can be found on the MCJ website).
Asked if he felt there was a culture of racism within the department, the chief said he doesn’t believe racism exists within the department, which he added is more diverse today than at any time in its history.
But he did admit there might be some individuals within the department with racist attitudes. Given Schoen’s actions towards Tracy, one can easily come to the conclusion he might be one of those officers or Flynn would not have fired him in the first place.
Though he has come under fire for recent actions by his officers, most notably the Derrick Williams incident (and his own comments related to the incident), Flynn should be credited for firing Schoen and other officers who have crossed the line in their treatment of Black citizens in their custody.
We believe the mayor must go beyond condemning the Commission’s decision. It might be time for either change within the Commission as it relates to removing certain members, or the complete dismantling and restructuring of that body.
Only then will citizens, especially minority citizens, feel secure in the knowledge that the Commission “has their back” in the meting out of discipline and setting the perimeters that govern the behavior of those sworn to “protect and serve.”
Statement of Common Council President Willie L. Hines, Jr.:
I am deeply troubled by the Fire and Police Commission’s inexplicable decision Monday to reinstate the employment of Police Officer Richard Schoen, who was fired by Chief Edward Flynn following an excessive force case. I thought Chief Flynn’s response was appropriate and that the officer’s actions warranted termination.
Chief Flynn, a police professional, clearly recognized that the officer’s use of force was excessive, inappropriate and in violation of standard operating procedure. I myself was appalled when I watched the squad car video that shows Officer Schoen pull Ms. Jeanine Tracy by the hair and deliver several blows to her head while she was handcuffed in the back seat. Ms. Tracy was by no means a threat to Officer Schoen, herself or anyone else. This is a case where an officer, in a rage, assaulted a defenseless citizen.
Officer Schoen’s actions are a stain on the reputation shared by the vast majority of police officers, who play by the book and do their jobs with the greatest level of professionalism.
But even more troubling is the decision by the Fire and Police Commission to replace Officer Schoen’s termination with a 60-day suspension. Their failure to uphold Chief Flynn’s discipline gives the impression that they sanction his assault on Ms. Tracy. Behavior like Officer Schoen’s cannot be condoned or embraced. This is not a case where an officer adhered to policy and simply made a bad judgment call. When an officer compromises the honor or his or her badge and blatantly violates police protocol, he or she must be terminated.
Police officers are not above the law and must be held accountable for their actions. By terminating Officer Schoen, Chief Flynn had demonstrated just that. The Fire and Police Commission decision to reinstate Officer Schoen sends a frightening message to the community and sets a dangerous precedent for the Milwaukee Police Department, and should absolutely be corrected.
Strikes at South Africa’s platinum, gold and coal mines have cost the country millions
The world’s biggest platinum producer, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), has agreed to reinstate the 12,000 South African miners sacked for taking part in an unofficial strike.
It had agreed to take back the miners if they returned to work by Tuesday, the National Union of Mineworkers said.
South Africa’s mining sector has been hit by a series of wildcat strikes, which have cost millions of dollars.
Dozens of people have been killed in strike-related violence.
The miners were sacked three weeks ago.
“They agreed to reinstate all the dismissed workers on the provision that they return to work by Tuesday,” NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka told the Reuters news agency.
He said he expected workers would return to their posts and “that will mean the end of the strike”.
Amplats said in a statement: “Employees who do not return to work on Tuesday… will remain dismissed and/or be subjected to the illegal strike disciplinary action and will not be eligible for any of the benefits mentioned above.”
The company said it was offering the miners a one-off hardship payment of $230 (£140) to facilitate their return.
Calm may now be returning, with many mining companies agreeing to higher wage demands, but in the longer term, more miners are likely to be laid off, says the BBC’s Andrew Harding in Johannesburg.
And while the unrest has shaken the authorities here, there is no sign that it has prompted the sort of radical steps many are calling for, our correspondent adds.
Strikes at South Africa’s platinum, gold and coal mines are estimated to have cost the country more than $1bn.
More than 40 people died in violent clashes between police and striking workers at a platinum mine in August.
South Africa is one of the world’s biggest producers of precious metals.
Analysts say workers across the industry are disaffected with the NUM and other mainstream unions, regarding them as too close to the employers.
The workers had been demanding 6,000 rand ($1,800; £1,100) in monthly pay, more than three times their current average salary.