MPD captain files claim

Retired Milwaukee Police Department Captain Glenn Frankovis recently filed a claim alleging defamation and conspiracy against the police chief, two aldermen and acting Mayor Marvin Pratt.

In addition, Frankovis alleges "constructive discharge by (MPD Chief) Nannette Hegerty," the claim said.

Frankovis was the center of a recent controversy involving a memorandum addressed to his officers in the 3rd police district. Frankovis was the captain of the district, which includes Marquette. The memo was leaked to the press, and following that, Frankovis was transferred to the Administration bureau.

"My duties and responsibilities were essentially nothing," Frankovis said.

The memo caused a stir when released to the media. The heart of the issue revolved around a few words and phrases in the memo, most notably the word "thugs."

"This is nothing I haven't said before," he said after reading a line from the memo: "…to send a clear and convincing signal to the thugs that the only thing they accomplished was to give (officers in District 3) cause to make their lives even more miserable than before."

"This was an internal memo," Frankovis said. "I was talking to police officers who've been with me for two years, or more if they were with me at District 5."

June Moberly, executive director of the Avenues West Association which works closely with MPD, said she was surprised by Frankovis' transfer. The word "thugs," she said, recently appeared in a Time Magazine article in a quote from the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.

The word "has no racial connotations," Moberly said. "It refers to people who are disrupting the peace and not abiding by the law."

However, some were offended by the use of the word.

"The captain did something," said Larry Moore, executive director of the Metcalfe Park Neighborhood Association, also within District 3. "He tried to re-energize his department around aggressively pursuing (a group of criminals). Unfortunately, what he did is refer to (that) group as 'thugs.'"

"The implication is, what the hell are 'thugs,'" he said. "The problem is the definition and connotation (the word) has for people."

Moore said black people who dress a certain way may fall under the connotative definition of "thug."

"A sizable number of people in the community may appear to be thugs," Moore said. "People may just dress like thugs."

Frankovis, however, used the word because he thinks it refers to criminals. He read articles from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quoting acting Mayor Marvin Pratt and 7th District Alderman Fred Gordon — two people named in the claim — using the word to refer to criminals.

Eric Mandel Johnson, a member of the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission, said the memo used the word in a way that may have led people to believe it referred to more than the criminal element.

The memo was written in reference to the transfer of officer Michael Lutz, who shot and paralyzed a man last August. Controversy erupted when Lutz claimed the man was reaching for a gun, while witness to the incident disagreed. Later the man admitted to reaching for a gun.

Following the incident, Frankovis said, threats were made against Lutz's life, which led to Lutz's transfer. Community members were upset, however, when police did not believe the witness from the community, Moore said.

Johnson said the community members "had a concern with the way things were happening." He said the memo could have been interpreted as referring to the community members as thugs. Frankovis said he was referring to the criminals and persons who threatened Lutz's life when he wrote the memo.

Memo aside, Frankovis was upset with the handling of his transfer. He said shortly after the memo appeared in the media in December, Hegerty held a press conference in which she announced his transfer before talking to him first.

"She decided to publicly humiliate me, and that's the way I see it," Frankovis said. "To me, the fact that she just hung me out to dry … rather than defend me, that's just disgraceful."

He said he was upset that Hegerty, Pratt, Gordon and 17th District Alderman Willie Hines, "who've all said good things about me in the past," did not speak to him before the conference or say anything positive about him at the conference.

Johnson, however, said he has "the utmost confidence in Chief Hegerty" and her decision. He said she may have held the conference without talking to him because she was busy.

Frankovis refuted the idea. He said he called Hegerty about a week prior to the press conference, and was told she was out of town.

Hegerty is out of town and was unavailable for comment. MPD officials said they could not comment because the matter is pending legal action. Pratt, Hines and Gordon also said they could not comment.

The claim was filed Feb. 13 and the city has 120 days to respond.