Milwaukee Leaders No Shows at Legislative Meeting about MPD
Republican Sen. Van Wanggaard and Rep. Joel Kleefisch invited city officials to an informational hearing on Wednesday, to explain a computer malfunction affecting the Milwaukee Police Department. The problem has resulted in several videotaped interrogations being inaccessible.
The two GOP legislators chair committees related to public safety and criminal justice, but Milwaukee Democrats accused the two of calling the hearing simply to slug the city politically.
Democrat Sen. Fred Risser kicked-off the meeting with a question.
"I'm trying to figure out, why we're having this hearing in the first place. There's no legislation pending, Risser said.
Wanggaard responded that "the reason why Rep. Kleefisch and I thought this was important to have a hearing is because 25 percent of the criminal cases that occur, occur in Milwaukee; that's number one. And, when we look at this issue, this issue is about data that is supposed to be collected under state law and data that is supposed to be made available."
Democrats insisted the problem was with the private vendor that the MPD hired to store the recordings, so Rep. Evan Goyke recommended the problems be worked out at a local level.
"The problem is, in order to get to the bottom of this issue is, you invited a TV camera. The Senate chair, one of your first remarks Mr. Senator (was) we had a very productive telephone conversation with the Milwaukee DA's office and they said that they were willing to meet with you and discuss the issue. Case closed. Adjourn the meeting. You don't need this hearing," Goyke said.
Rep. Kleefisch insisted the problem does fall under the jurisdiction of the Legislature because every year the state sends millions of taxpayer dollars to the city.
"I would like to get a few answers about what is happening to the taxpayers' money in the City of Milwaukee, with the potential loss of evidence. There are not only victims which can be affected, but there are potential criminals who may be through the revolving door and back on the street. In addition to the that, there are the police officers who worked hard to gather evidence, collect it, and now may not have it to prosecute," Kleefisch said.
Democrats asked GOP leaders why they did not invite the vendor to the hearing; they cited confidentiality reasons.
Milwaukee Sen. Lena Taylor told the committee chairs she appreciates the fact they scheduled a hearing related to police matters, but she said she wishes they would have been just as expedient and interested, in examining policing practices and officer training.
The Milwaukee leaders invited to Wednesday's hearing were Mayor Tom Barrett, Police Chief Edward Flynn, Sheriff David Clarke and District Attorney John Chisholm. Most cited previous engagements.
The only invited guest who attended was Mike Crivello, head of the Milwaukee Police Association.