Project Milwaukee: To Protect And Serve

Milwaukee has a fraught history of police-community relations. Leaders and residents are hopeful conditions will improve as the city gets a new police chief.

WUWM's latest Project Milwaukee series will examine the past, present and future of policing, at what could be a pivotal juncture.

You can help shape this series. What questions do you have about policing in Milwaukee? Submit your responses below.

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Courtesy of the Milwaukee Police Department

Update:

On Thursday, the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission announced Alfonso Morales will serve as police chief through January 2020.

This is when former Police Chief Edward Flynn's term would have ended. Flynn retired in February and the commission then appointed Morales to serve as interim chief.

Original post, March 27:

Michelle Maternowski

WUWM carried out an informal survey, by driving around town and asking Milwaukeeans what they think about police-community relations here.

We started at Neuvo Mercado El Rey on South Cesar E. Chavez Drive.

“All the policemen in the south side who I know are very friendly to the customers and to us. They do a really good job on the south side," El Rey co-owner Ernesto Villarreal says.

Cynthia Renteria, who was walking into El Rey, says she’s never had any kind of contact or problem with the police, but her father has had a few bad experiences.

Susan Bence

An independent survey released earlier this month indicated that most Milwaukee residents are somewhat, or very, satisfied with police.

Yet many people, especially minorities, view the police through a lens of frustration, anger, or even fear. The city could be at a pivotal juncture, however, with last month's retirement of longtime Police Chief Edward Flynn, and the eventual installation of a new leader.

Throughout WUWM's Project Milwaukee series this week, we've heard from police leaders, activists, and experts about what's being done to mend police-community relations in Milwaukee. We also wanted to hear how officers view the issue.

WUWM's Teran Powell sits down with Milwaukee Police Department Captain Heather Wurth, who's been with the police for more than 20 years, and 17-year veteran Sergeant Sheronda Grant.

Marti Mikkelson

For nearly two decades, Milwaukee County’s Community Prosecution Program has been teaming up police with the District Attorney’s office to respond to citizen complaints. While it remains popular with residents, the program appears to be in jeopardy.

The federal government stopped funding the program last year. Only three of the seven Community Prosecution Units remain in operation in Milwaukee County, that is until they spend the last of the money allotted to them in previous years.

Maria C. Maldonado

If you’re involved in community activism in Milwaukee, it’s likely you’ve met Markasa Tucker.

She’s the leader of several advocacy groups, including the African-American RoundtableUBLAC Milwaukee, and The Alternative.

North American Family Institute / facebook.com

Project Milwaukee: To Protect and Serve has been addressing the often strained relationship between Milwaukee’s Police Department and the communities it’s sworn to protect. However, these issues aren’t unique to Milwaukee. Many urban communities are facing the same kinds of problems with police and community members.

skarin / Fotolia

Increasingly, police officers are the first contact for social services. To help with that, the Crisis Assessment Response Team brings the Milwaukee Police Department together with the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division to response to mental health crises. 

The first CART team was launched in 2013. It has since expanded to four teams, three cover the City of Milwaukee and one works throughout Milwaukee County.

Maayan Silver

One group on Milwaukee's near north side is taking action to reduce crime, improve safety and meet other needs in their community.

Nasheka and Jerome Bryant are the husband and wife team at the heart of the Freedom Fighters organization. 

The organization is made up of civilians who work independently from police. They patrol, respond to calls and mediate to resolve conflicts, often in hopes that police don't need to be called to the scene.

CC4QP / youtube.com

The mission of Community Coalition for Quality Policing is to reduce crime in Milwaukee, increase the cooperation between police and community members, and improve morale among police officers.

CC4QP is made up of a diverse group of 20 plus advocacy, faith and service organizations - including the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP.

Fred Royal, president of the chapter, says, "Policing, just like any relationship, has to be worked on constantly."

ChiccoDodiFC / Fotolia

Milwaukeeans looking for solutions to a tense climate between communities and the police force could look to the city of Cincinnati as an example. The area's population is comparable to Milwaukee, and has dealt with many of the same issues of mistrust between law enforcement and minority communities. 

But years of work in Cincinnati has led to a different climate. Their model for change is one that a group called the Community Coalition for Quality Policing would like to see implemented in Milwaukee.

Marti Mikkelson

This week, we’re examining police-community relations, as part of our series Project Milwaukee: To Protect and Serve. The relationship is sometimes tense. But, there are examples of the police and community working together to solve problems.

I stopped at the monthly crime and safety meeting on Milwaukee's near south side last week. More than 100 people who live in the neighborhood filed in to the Mitchell Street Library to take their seats.

(vincent desjardins) / Flickr

The work of police departments around the country has been under particular scrutiny in the last year. Some high profile shootings by police – and of police - have strained the relationship between some departments and the communities they are sworn to protect. 

Vincent Desjardins, flickr

All this week, our latest Project Milwaukee series, To Protect and Serve, is examining the state of police-community relations here.

WUWM's latest Project Milwaukee series, To Protect and Serve, airs March 26-30.  It will focus on relations between law enforcement and the community it is sworn to protect, at a time of major transition.  We preview the series with two of the people that helped shape it - Ann-Elise Henzl, WUWM News director and Audrey Nowakowski, Lake Effect producer and Project Milwaukee co-executive producer.

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