Milwaukee coalition reports $14 million in misconduct costs

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Last week, a group of citizens submitted documentation of what they believe is proof that the Milwaukee Police Department cost taxpayers over $14 million through misconduct over the past decade.

The misconduct that MPD has been accused of, found by the coalition, indicated the problems were primarily along two lines: using excessive force and racial profiling. These claims, combined with other complaints of alleged misconduct, have been reported to the U.S. Department of Justice after consulting citizens on whether an investigation should be conducted on MPD, in part because of the fallout following the death of Derek Williams in July 2011.

The coalition of residents used Legistar, a record keeping system online used by the City of Milwaukee, to put together citizen complaints and lawsuits. In total, the group added together $14 million in costs the city has spent on defense and settlement for MPD.

Civil rights leaders and lawyers have applauded the group’s effort. They specifically note the citizens being able to stand up for those in their community whose rights were taken away. One law firm standing by the citizen coalition is Samster, Konkel & Safran, S.C, which has represented many victims of police brutality, including Frank L. Jude, Jr. who was beaten by off-duty MPD officers in 2004. Samster, Konkel & Safran, S.C is also representing Williams’ family. The firm announced its stance on its website Nov. 21.

“In that case, we obtained a $2 million settlement for Mr. Jude, so we know the tremendous cost to the City of Milwaukee when its police officers violate civil rights,” the Samster, Konkel & Safran, S.C. post said. “We hope that the Department of Justice decides to conduct a complete review of the MPD so that future police misconduct can be prevented.”

Jonathan Safran, a founding member and shareholder of Samster, Konkel & Safran, said this is unfortunate for not just the victim but the Milwaukee taxpayer.

“It’s a double injury for the citizens of Milwaukee, because they have to pay their taxpayer dollars for the salary and benefits of the police officers to protect and serve them, and then to have to pay with their city taxpayer dollars to compensate for those who commit civil rights violations,” Safran said.

These acts of misconduct took center stage in the media when Derek Williams, 22, died while being held by Milwaukee police. In July 2011, Williams died in the back seat of a police squad car after telling officers he could not breathe. The officers failed to follow protocol by not calling an ambulance immediately. Law enforcement believed Williams was faking his symptoms.

This also motivated the protesters who walked through Marquette two weeks ago calling for Chief Edward Flynn to resign after a video of Williams’ arrest was obtained and released by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Initially, in 2008, Flynn was brought to the department to restore the agency in light of the repeated incidents within the department. However, those waiting for a resignation from Flynn claim that nothing has changed over the past four years. Flynn has stated that he has no plans to step down.

MPD had not responded to requests for comment as of press time.

Elaine Steiner, a Milwaukee resident, said she is fed up with the high taxes she has to pay in addition to the other various payments the city requires.

“I think the taxes are way too high,” Steiner said. “There are a lot of nutty taxes here.”

Advocates hope these numbers will motivate the DOJ to move forward with its investigation. The Derek Williams case is currently being investigated by the FBI amid the release of the arrest video.

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