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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

[WI] The Milwaukee Police Department's Officer-Involved Domestic Violence Policy is Unclear

The Police Department's procedures on handling officer-involved domestic violence should be pulled together into one document.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Nov. 8, 2011

The Milwaukee Police Department has policies in place to handle many situations - from how to conduct a traffic stop to how to defuse a dangerous confrontation.

The department also says it has a policy on how to handle domestic violence involving its own officers. But there are reasons to think that policy should be clarified after revelations in the Journal Sentinel's "Both Sides of the Law," series.

When reporter Gina Barton requested the department's policy, she was given a scant four paragraphs. And a top officer in the department charged with overseeing performance and discipline told her that he had never read a comprehensive model policy formulated by the state.

The department says its policy for dealing with officers involved in domestic violence conforms to national standards but is split up in pieces throughout its voluminous "standard operating procedures." It is not collected into a single document, as is often recommended by experts. It should be.

Whatever it takes, we think the department needs to make sure its policy is crystal clear - to its officers but also to the public.

The Journal Sentinel found that 93 officers were disciplined for violating the laws or ordinances they were sworn to uphold. Of that group, 16 were disciplined after internal investigators concluded they had committed acts of domestic violence.

A model policy created by the International Association of Chiefs of Police states that officers should be treated different from other offenders because, well, they are different. The IACP model policy recommends a sensible "zero tolerance" policy for domestic violence for officers.

In other words, once found to have committed domestic violence, an officer should not investigate a report of domestic violence. Milwaukee Police Chief Edward A. Flynn recently called such a provision a "slippery slope," and we understand his point. But such a policy makes common sense, and we think battered women would agree with us.

Furthermore, we are troubled by a 2010 case involving the wife of Lt. David Salazar, a supervisor in the department's Professional Performance Division. She called 911 during an argument with him, telling a dispatcher that Salazar was intoxicated and trying to break down the door.

Officers investigated, but no report was filed and the tape of the 911 call doesn't exist. The department has given two accounts of how the tape came to be missing. The Salazar incident may well be explainable, but, to clear the air, an outside investigator should take a look at it.

During the past four years, Flynn has taken many steps to improve the department's response to crime in Milwaukee. He also has improved its professionalism. His data-driven policing strategy is logical and so far seems to be working. But the chief should make sure the department's policy on officer-involved domestic violence also is clear and effective. There are reasons to suspect it is not. [LINK]

1 comment:

  1. For every 1 wrongful officer there are hundreds of honest, hard-working, caring police officers out there helping people. However, it seems that every week there is only negative publicity about MPD and other departments. I know the public has high expectations of police officers and it's juicy gossip to publicize their mistakes, but it only provokes the public to distrust police. Yes, it's important for the public to be informed that not everyone, not even all police, are trustworthy. My point is that their heroic acts should be in the media just as much as their mistakes.

    Do not misinterpret me, I do NOT believe that officers with domestic violence convictions should have the honor of being a police officer by any means. I know for a fact that most police officer positions disqualify applicants that have a domestic abuse conviction (www.wilenet.org). They also have several other strict standards for police applicants. I don't understand why it's acceptable after being hired though. I agree that MPDs policies should be as clear cut as laws that govern the rest of the public and officers should know and understand those policies as we, the public, understand the laws that govern us. In my opinion, internal affairs should be the only investigating unit of any police officer involved crimes.

    Most importantly, I want to say that I deeply sympathize with domestic violence victims. It must be devastating to be abused by someone that is mistaken for trustworthy, a person they love, a person they share a home with, a police officer.

    Thank you.


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