A coalition of civil rights and faith groups called for the creation of an independent, diverse civilian board to oversee investigations of police shootings and other uses of force as part of an action plan released Monday to improve police-community relations in Milwaukee.
Such a board would not necessarily replace the city’s Fire and Police Commission, said Fred Royal, president of the NAACP Milwaukee branch.
“I would like (the commission) to actually do what they’re charged with doing,” Royal said. “But I think a community-driven board that is non-partisan, that does not have those ties to the appointing person, frankly the mayor, would be a much more open and transparent practice to use.”
The NAACP Milwaukee branch, American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and League of United Latin American Citizens of Wisconsin were among more than a dozen faith, civil rights and neighborhood groups that sent a letter detailing their action plan to city and state officials. Their recommendations also were given to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services which currently is conducting a review of the Milwaukee Police Department‘s training, practices and policies.
“There are serious issues in our communities, especially right here in Milwaukee,” said Darryl Morin of League of United Latin American Citizens. “If we’re to tackle those, if we’re to begin that work, we need to have trust in working together.”
In a statement, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he appreciates the coalition’s efforts to improve police-community relations and he looks forward “to discussing the ideas presented.”
The coalition called for the Common Council’s Public Safety Committee to ensure residents, particularly young people, can weigh in before the committee’s recommendations for the criminal justice system are released and adopted.
Ald. Bob Donovan, who leads the committee, said he supported such input as a way to improve police-community relations.
“Whether the meeting will take place before we announce a plan, that’s still up in the air,” Donovan said Monday. “I’m pretty certain it would be prior to action on any of the recommendations.”
The coalition also urged the Milwaukee Police Department to research and evaluate the effectiveness of crime strategies and how those strategies impact community trust and legitimacy, which was among the recommendations of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
The department released a statement noting Flynn had testified in front of the task force and saying the department has “moved very assertively to implement its recommendations” and “is supportive of the additional research into the impact of police practices recommended.”
The coalition’s other action steps, some of which already are underway, include recruiting police aides and officers who reflect the diversity of Milwaukee; creating a method to evaluate technologies, such as ShotSpotter, cell site simulators and body-worn cameras, in use by the Milwaukee Police Department; and doing a “better job of listening to one another” and providing “procedural justice.”
City and state officials “can do a lot to establish their credibility — not just with the groups that signed on to this but also with young people in the community — if they would follow through, and don’t commission another study but let’s take some action,” said Chris Ahmuty, ACLU of Wisconsin executive director.
Downloads:Letter – 21st Century Policing Fixing Broken Police – OH