Archive for March, 2011

A ‘Real Go-Getter’ Steps Up

Rick Sandoval, a veteran Milwaukee police officer and a real go-getter, is featured in an ad for Justice David Prosser, a Wisconsin supreme court justice standing for reelection on April 5.

The 30-second spot provides some insight into the legal battle surrounding the shooting of Police Officer Mike Lutz. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzoW_uj80yk

On October 3, 2005, as he had done for the past 16-years, Mike Lutz arrived for duty with the Milwaukee Police Department.  Little did he know that this would be—for all practical purposes—his last official day as a street cop.

Lt. Mike Dubis, Sgt. Mike Hartert, Sandoval, Lutz, and Officer John Osowski rolled-up to execute a no-knock search warrant for weapons at 905 W. Harrison Street—an apartment building wedged between the street and the Kinnickinnic River to the south.  Sgt. Hartert was in full uniform, while the other officers present were dressed in civilian attire with their badges plainly visible.  A man, who was outside when the officers arrived in their unmarked squad cars and shouting “police” and “search warrant” in both English and Spanish, ran inside Apartment Four—the search warrant’s targeted location. When the officers attempted for force the door, the man tried to hold the door shut.

“I proceeded to the door. I announce ‘Milwaukee police. Milwaukee police,’ Lutz testified. “I have my gun in my right hand extended before me, and I have my left hand out to push open the door, and I start pushing open the door as I’m yelling, ‘Milwaukee Police.’

“The door gets open approximately 12 inches. And I’m able to see a refrigerator to my left, and I see Mr. Payano leaning over the refrigerator pointing a gun at me. It happened very quickly.

“Just as the door was opened and I glanced, I didn’t have the time to bring my gun over. I heard one shot fired.”

As a defense, Payano claimed he did not know that the men forcing the door were police officers.

Common sense should have kicked-in here, as the location is a rough part of the city of Milwaukee—an area where street gangs have operated for years.  The officers were driving unmarked Ford Crown Victorias and Sgt. Hartert was wearing a police uniform.

But common sense is not always so common.

A Circuit Court judge shot down Payano’s claim of self-defense, although the court of appeals then overturned the lower court’s ruling.

The case then reached the Wisconsin State Supreme Court.

“We conclude,” wrote Justice Prosser for the majority, “that, because the circuit court made its ruling using the appropriate legal standards under Sullivan, sufficiently explained its rationale on the record, and came to a reasonable conclusion, we must affirm its decision to admit the other acts evidence against Payano.”

Because of this ruling, prosecutors were able to obtain a conviction of Officer Lutz’s assailant.

The shooting, however, seriously damaged Mike Lutz’s arm.  He later received a duty disability.  Sources tell SF that Lutz is set to graduate from the University of Wisconsin law school in May. 

And although police officers receive duty-disabilities, retire, and move on with their lives, it is great to see Rick Sandoval willing to stand-up and speak out in support of his former partner and a state supreme court justice who understands the dangers confronting frontline officers on a daily basis.

To read the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s lengthy opinion, visit:

http://www.wisbar.org/res/sup/2009/2007ap001042.htm

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Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011


Letter from State Police Union Executive Draws Fire

The consensus amongst several of SF’s readers is that James Palmer, the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Officers Association (WPPA), is a man whose tactics have disgraced that organization’s rank-and-file members.

Palmer, and other so-called law enforcement professionals, drew the ire of some for sending a letter to Mr. Tom Ellis, the President of the Marshall and Ilsely (M&I) Corporation. 

 http://www.620wtmj.com/shows/charliesykes/117764004.html?blog=y&page=2

“As you also know,” Palmer writes in the letter to Ellis, “Scott Walker did not campaign on this issue [limiting collective bargaining for public employees] when he ran for office. If he had, we are confident that you would not be listed among his largest contributors.”

Then comes the quid pro quo shake down.

“The undersigned groups would like your company to publicly oppose Governor Walker’s efforts to virtually eliminate collective bargaining for public employees in Wisconsin.  While we appreciate that you may need some time to consider this request, we ask for your response by March 17. In the event that you do not respond to this request by that date, we will assume that you stand with Governor Walker and against the teachers, nurses, police officers, fire fighters, and other dedicated public employees who serve our communities.

“In the event that you cannot support this effort to save collective bargaining, please be advised that the undersigned will publicly and formally boycott the goods and services provided by your company. However, if you join us, we will do everything in our power to publicly celebrate your partnership in the fight to preserve the right of public employees to be heard at the bargaining table.”

Palmer’s letter caused a collective gasp from many law enforcement veterans.

In fact, Glenn Frankovis, a retired Milwaukee Police Department captain, mentioned that several of his law enforcement contacts view Palmer’s threats as extortion. 

For the record, James Palmer is not and has never been a law enforcement officer.  Those familiar with the inner-workings of the WPPA describe Palmer as a dyed-in-the-wool Madison liberal and an ally of former Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle.

On February 5, 2009, Doyle appointed Palmer to the Higher Educational Aids Board.  Palmer also provided political cover by standing at Doyle’s side when the then governor announced an early release program for felons from Wisconsin prisons.   Since Milwaukee bore the brunt of the burden, Police Chief Ed Flynn and Mayor Tom Barrett took issue with the state’s catch-and-release initiative.

http://www.beloitdailynews.com/articles/2010/05/05/news/wisconsin_news/wis503.txt

Now Palmer’s letter to the M&I executive has law enforcement veterans questioning his ethics and his regard for the WPPA’s overall membership.

One current officer provided this behind-the-scenes view.  During a February 19, 2011, rally in Madison, the WPPA established a reception area at the Concourse Hotel on Dayton Street so that officers on break from capitol security could stop-in for food and water.  While at the reception area, Palmer was beaming after meeting the Rev. Jesse Jackson.  “He [Palmer],” according to the officer, “was clearly star-struck.”  

Another law enforcement veteran took issue with the content of Palmer’s letter to Ellis.

“Palmer et al were untruthful in their letter to Mr. Ellis. Police officers and fire fighters received an exception in the budget repair bill [from Gov. Walker].  Palmer appears more intent on turning the dues collected from WPPA members into a funding mechanism for the Democrat Party than in doing what is in the best interest of his members.”

Others noted the tactics used by Palmer and his fellow co-signers.  

“State and local union leaders blew it,” wrote another. “E-mails released by Walker show that he was willing to remove the cap on wages to get the missing 14 Democrat state senators back to the capitol to vote. Increases in wages would have off-set some of the required contributions to pensions and health care — a win for those in the state pension system, since retirement benefits are determined by averaging the highest three years of earnings.  Over time, continued wage hikes might increase pension payments several thousand dollars a year.  Instead, Mr. Palmer and the 14 Democrat senators listened to their masters from Organizing America.  This ploy resulted in the union workers being used as pawns while walking away from the table empty handed.”

“Palmer and the leaders of the local firefighter and police union in Madison,” another notes, “belong to a group of ingrates more interested in hocking the wares of the Democrats than protecting their members.”

And two weeks ago, John Balcerzak, the former president of the Milwaukee Police Association—the collective bargaining unit representing rank-and-file Milwaukee police officers and detectives—e-mailed WTMJ radio to distance sworn law enforcement officers from the WPPA executive director.  “Jim Palmer is not a police officer,” Balcerzak noted.  “He is a lawyer.”

As SF noted in an earlier post, during heated political discourse, labor unrest, or civil strife, law enforcement officers become the uniformed arbitrators of fairness.

One section of The Law Enforcement Code of Ethics reads, “I will never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, animosities or friendships to influence my decisions,” which is why some law enforcement veterans find a Youtube video of one Madison officer’s rants particularly troubling. 

Police Sergeant Dave McClurg pays homage to the protestors by identifying himself as an officer with the Madison Police Department.  Most law enforcement agencies have rules prohibiting their members from using their position to advance causes and/or political positions.  But McClurg, who portrays himself as a former Republican, conveniently fails to mention that he is the Vice President of the Madison Professional Police Officers Association—a group that openly opposes Walker’s budget repair bill. 

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fCm6JcOMuM

Certainly, the political rift amongst law enforcement officers concerning the governor’s budget repair bill runs deep.  But politics aside, those who use questionable and unethical tactics should heed the words of our nation’s 16th president.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” 

WPPA Executive Director James Palmer and those who co-signed the letter to Tom Ellis have failed Honest Abe’s test miserably .

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Steve Spingola is an author and former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective

© Steve Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011


Collateral Damage: Homicide Suspect’s Son Gets a Pink Slip

To view this article, please checkout Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, available exclusively at Amazon.com in December of 2012.

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Steve Spingola is an author and former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. 

If your organization is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ presentation The Psychology of Homicide.  For more information visit: http://www.badgerwordsmith.com/the_psychology_of_homicide_presentation.html

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011