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Milwaukee NAACP Calls for Investigation into MPD

The Milwaukee branch of the NAACP is calling for the federal government to investigate the way in which Milwaukee Police Officers treat African Americans. The group is calling for a “patterns and practice” investigation – and more.

The Milwaukee branch of the NAACP has for years cried foul over what the organization believes to be the unfair treatment of African American men at the hands of the Milwaukee Police Department. The group, along with community activists, held a news conference Wednesday, to bring renewed attention to the issue. Those who spoke mentioned the illegal body cavity searches police are accused of conducting. They also addressed the police shooting death of Dontre Hamilton – the mentally ill man, who died in a struggle with an officer at Red Arrow Park last year. And the NAACP revealed a list of demands it wants to see in the criminal justice system. Lillie Wilson is with the organization. 

“At the city level, the Milwaukee Police Department implement a principal and advisory policy for officers who witness criminal or an excessive act by fellow officers, but do nothing to subdue them. Any officer involved in any criminal investigation be immediately suspended without pay until the investigation is concluded,” Wilson says.

One of group’s biggest demands is that U.S. Attorney James Santelle conduct a patterns and practice investigation of the Milwaukee Police Department. The NAACP says it’s currently circulating a petition in hopes of convincing the federal government that something is not right here. Nate Hamilton – the brother of the man killed at Red Arrow Park -- supports the petition. Yet Hamilton expects it will go unnoticed. So he says advocates for change must take additional action:

“We can no longer write our names on a piece of paper thinking that the job is going to get done. We have to go into these people’s face, we have to go into they (their) office space and we have to make them feel uncomfortable just as well as our community feels uncomfortable,” Hamilton says.

The Milwaukee Police Department did not return a call seeking comment about the NAACP’s complaints. UW-Milwaukee criminal justice expert Stan Stojkovic isn’t sure the organization’s petition will result in a federal investigation. But he says given MPD’s history, the request is reasonable. 

“Whether or not the U.S. Attorney’s office will pursue this in earnest ability is hard to say because the political process is going on and now the presidential season is heating up and often times outgoing candidates don’t want to get involved in these kinds of things. So the U.S. Department of Justice works for the president of the United States at the end of the day so the attorney general. There’s a lot there and there’s a lot of politics and making the request is reasonable, but whether or not it goes forward we’ll have to see,” Stojkovic says.

Stojkovic says such calls for investigations into police practices are on the rise around the country. He says there have been more demands in the recent past, than in the last couple decades.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.