MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn briefed the media Thursday evening regarding an internal investigation that resulted in seven MPD officers and a supervisor being placed on desk duty.
The officers and supervisor are apparently under investigation after complaints were filed from several individuals about how body cavity searches were performed on them in the field. Chief Flynn says all of the complaints were from men, and all from individuals with prior criminal records. The chief said that several of the officers now on desk duty may have simply been present, but not conducting the searches.
It is unclear at this time how many complaints have been filed, but it was enough over a short period of time, according to Chief Flynn, to catch the Milwaukee Police Department's eye, which sparked the investigation. "We had greatly spread out allegations over the course of a couple of years. We did not pick up a pattern. Then we had several in a short period of time, and that's when we decided to launch a full investigation," Chief Flynn said.
The chief asked for patience Thursday, until they can sort through the facts. In his speech, he spoke to both the community, who he said he needs on this side to be effective, and the officers from the rest of the department, saying he has their back. "We are the good guys, and we have to follow the rules and even when we get complaints from bad guys, we have to follow the rules. It's fair to say that the people who are the original complainants are the subjects of police activity in the past. All of them have arrest records - some more serious than others," Chief Flynn said.
With the attention on District 5, where the officers are said to work, Chief Flynn expects more complaints to come in.
Police haven't released many specific details into this investigation, saying the investigation is "pending," but Common Council President Willie Hines has wasted no time speaking out.
Hines believes there is substance to an internal Milwaukee Police Department investigation that caused the department to reassign seven officers and a supervisor to administrative duty. "We must air on the side of caution when it comes to civil rights and sexually assaulting our citizens. Where there is smoke, there is generally fire, and we must take these officers out of harm's length of the citizens. Obviously, when the chief takes the action that he did, absent the completion of an internal investigation, really, to me, speaks to the seriousness of the matter," Hines said.
Milwaukee Police Association President Mike Crivello says he doesn't appreciate the rush to judgement. "It's just wrong. Our officers in this city are absolutely professionals. What we know from the department is that there is a possible policy review. So how bad can that be?" Crivello said.
Chief Flynn said Thursday he suspended police powers of the seven officers and one supervisor for two reasons. "If allegations are sustained, we can't send a message to officers that the conduct is condoned. Second reason is I did it for the safety of the officers. I can't have them looking over their shoulder while the investigation is underway," Flynn said.
Crivello says until we hear more facts, no one should form opinions. "When something like this happens, it creates a lot of stress in these officers' lives. We have to remember, these officers are human beings who go home to wives and kids," Crivello said.
Those who would like to file a complaint are asked to call the Milwaukee Police Department Professional Performance Division (414) 935-7939, the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission (414) 935-7500 or the Milwaukee County District Attorney (414) 278-4646.