Flynn reflects on first year

  • Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn spoke in Sensenbrenner Hall yesterday in "On the Issues with Mike Gousha"
  • Flynn concluded his first year as police chief this month explained the tactics he hopes to employ with MPD
  • In the past year Milwaukee has seen a significant decrease in violent crime, but Flynn is still concerned about other areas of criminal activity

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn was the subject of a detailed interview yesterday for "On the Issues" with Mike Gousha in Sensenbrenner Hall.

The interview focused on questions relating to the conclusion of Flynn's first year as Milwaukee's chief of police. Flynn addressed issues posed by both Gousha and the audience that are of vital concern to Milwaukee, to its future, and to the future of law enforcement in general.

"One of my main concerns when coming here in the first place was being able to change the narrative of Milwaukee, which greatly affects the opportunities for our residents," Flynn said.

Since Flynn assumed the position of police chief, Milwaukee has seen a significant drop in violent crime rates. Flynn said last year the city experienced the lowest number of homicides since 1985.

He said there were 71 homicides in 2008 — a 32 percent decrease from the previous year's rate. He said homicides involving a firearm were down 45 percent from the previous year.

"We are trying to intervene in the thought process of known offender groups," Flynn said. "We want to alter the mental calculus leading folks to walk outside with a firearm."

Gousha asked Flynn if he believes he has been successful thus far in reducing fear in the city. Gousha explained that in his interview with Flynn last year, Flynn said he would define his measure of success by the reduction of crime, fear and disorder.

These three things require different forms of intervention and different methods of analyzing information, Flynn said. The measure of a population's fear only comes from experiences in daily life, he said.

"I want to know people's opinions on if they feel safe in their neighborhoods, in the city at large, if they have confidence in their police and if they feel they are being treated fairly by their police," Flynn said.

He said when people are in fear they are not free. If a community feels somewhat unstable, it affects the behavior of citizens in public spaces and that creates an ideal environment for criminality," Flynn said.

Tim Olsen, Marquette's director of communications, expressed Marquette's acknowledgment of the improved public safety under Flynn's leadership.

"Marquette is grateful for the efforts of MPD, in cooperation with Marquette DPS, and looks forward to continued cooperation and collaboration," Olsen said.

"The challenge for any complex organization, but especially ours, is the existence of natural barriers that keep us from sharing valuable information between positions," Flynn said.

He explained the thought process the department is using to analyze current data, patterns and trends relating to criminal activity. He said the data is also analyzed alongside data from previous weeks, months and years.

"The idea is that we are going to build the organization around prevention, but the measure of any successful impact will only happen in the future," Flynn said. "I came into this business many years ago with a liberal arts education already in tow, with a notion that I was going to change the world of policing."

Though homicides have drastically decreased since last year, Flynn said domestic violence remains problematic. He said in the last year there were a total of five shaken baby deaths, which is a 500 percent increase from the year before.

Assistant District Attorney Lori Kornblum, an adjunct professor in the Law School, was present in the audience. She asked Flynn to address the situation of domestic abuse.

"There were actually 30 shaken baby cases in the past year, five of which resulted in death," Kornblum said.

Kornblum said there is a known connection between child abuse and future criminal activity, and asked what MPD will do to address this issue.

Flynn said the department needs more assistance from helping professions to better address child abuse. Unlike other areas of crime, domestic violence can be a challenge because MPD has to wait for people to report it themselves, he said.

Kornblum said she has participated in the fight against child abuse. She has helped in the development of the protocol on child abuse investigations. Kornblum is also a member of the Child Abuse Review Team in Milwaukee County.

Gousha requested that Flynn explain to spectators what he has done to bridge the castle of distrust that can exist between the community at large and the police department.

"Every officer in the organization has a leadership responsibility," Flynn said. "Their behaviors have to be governed by a true value of conduct."

Flynn further explained how he is working to enforce a system of more dispersed leadership within the department. He said each person is responsible for their own conduct and also for stopping the misconduct of peers.

"We are making a commitment to engage in honest discussion about the reality of police culture and of the community," Flynn said. "It will be an ongoing process, but I have been energized by the department's enthusiasm with this."