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How Some Residents Feel About Police-Community Relations In Milwaukee

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Michelle Maternowski
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Some of the Milwaukee residents we chatted with on the city's south and north sides.

WUWM carried out an informal survey, by driving around town and asking Milwaukeeans what they think about police-community relations here.

We started at Neuvo Mercado El Rey on South Cesar E. Chavez Drive.

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Credit Michelle Maternowski
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El Rey co-owner Ernesto Villarreal

“All the policemen in the south side who I know are very friendly to the customers and to us. They do a really good job on the south side," El Rey co-owner Ernesto Villarreal says.

Cynthia Renteria, who was walking into El Rey, says she’s never had any kind of contact or problem with the police, but her father has had a few bad experiences.

“He was just walking like anyone would on the street and I’m not sure why, they just stopped him and started asking him the regular questions - his name and for his ID.... They started getting a little aggressive and he got a little hurt and he even went to court. He won the case because it was something they shouldn’t have done.”

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Credit Michelle Maternowski
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Francisco Urbina shopping at El Rey.

“When I call them they show up because I live in Bay View... The ideal situation would be it we gave incentives for policemen to live in the districts they serve," Francisco Urbina says.

Pablo Perez, who lives near El Rey, says police have helped him when he was in a car accident. “They helped me with the ambulance and made sure I was okay.”

He would like police to patrol alleys in his neighborhood. “Last week my neighbor told me at 2 am someone was touching his door... If you call the police, probably they would take 10-20 minutes to come, but when you have an accident or something, the police are good people. They help."
 

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Credit Michelle Maternowski
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Buovanh Schuelke in her store.

Buovanh Schuelke owns the Asian International Market at 35th and National. She wishes police would clamp down on cars driving too fast but other than that, Schuelke describes the police as being awesome. “They bike here and walk here – they are very helpful.”

Steve Norton, who was waiting outside of Walgreens on Layton and National for his wife, says he doesn’t like being around police. “Some cops (are) good, all cops ain't bad... but I hate being stopped by the police. It's just bad here. People need to change really, that's what I think... if people weren’t doing bad... the police wouldn’t be so scared and tense.”

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Credit Michelle Maternowski
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Eugene Robinson outside a corner store on North Avenue.

Eugene Robinson was busy sweeping and cleaning up the sidewalks and street at outside a corner store at 16th and North when we meet him. He says Milwaukee police have helped him out. “When I sick they called the ambulance and saved my life.”

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Credit Michelle Maternowski
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Jamie Lamar Davis Sr. on North Avenue.

Also outside of the same store is Jamie Lamar Davis Sr., who says he has never had a bad experience with the police “because I’ve never done anything wrong. You do wrong, you get caught, do the crime, you get the time. Ain't no whining about it. Just work, get a job, don’t rob nobody, don’t take nobody’s stuff, don’t do nobody wrong."

Davis adds, “The police I’ve seen in Milwaukee so far are just doing their job.”

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Credit Michelle Maternowski
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Inside the store, we meet Edward Adams.

Edward Adams considers policemen to be a blessing. “Without them, it would be living hell. They’re here to protect and save lives. If they weren’t, I probably would be dead….Police have helped me eat.”

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Credit Michelle Maternowski
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Before Jerome Garrett goes shopping, he poses for a picture.

In the same store on North Avenue, Jerome Garrett says some things the police do are good, other things are not ok. “Sometimes they break the law... a lot of stuff that I see on the TV about the shooting and all of that stuff, they just put them on leave, then they still get paid. I don't think that is right. The way it is going on now, it’s not getting better - it is getting worse.”

In the Riverwest neighborhood, Mary says police come when you need them, but they can’t always help. “Someone broke into a car I had. It wasn’t mine. Friends loaned it to me, so they couldn’t do anything about it because I was not the real owner. Then I told them about suspected drug activity across the street and they said they were so busy with shootings they couldn’t do that, but to call the alderman. So at least they refer.”

Fellow Riverwest resident John Ruebartsch shares a brief assessment of policy community relations: “It doesn’t seem good. It’s always in the news. It’s all I’ve got to say.”

» Find all of the Project Milwaukee: To Protect And Serve reports here.

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Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.