Archive for August, 2011

Leaving for College? Take Some Common Sense Along, too

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


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

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, visit

 © Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011

Local News Outlets Should Look to Our Neighbors from the North

With the ranks of reporters and the level of local news coverage at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel shrinking, the activities of organized crime outfits in Milwaukee remains dramatically under reported.  One would think that local television assignment editors—witnessing the void in detailed crime related coverage—would seize the opportunity to fill in the gaps left by declining newspaper revenues. Instead, local newscasts bombard viewers of southeastern Wisconsin with over-the-top weather coverage and investigations pertaining to restaurant cleanliness.

“The only way for a violent gang war to get noticed in the Milwaukee news media,” a retired police supervisor wrote, tongue-in-cheek, in a recent e-mail, “is to have the gangs’ members host a barbeque with dirty utensils.”

If television news in the Milwaukee area is interested in getting it right, they should take a few tips from the Canadian Broadcast Corporation. 

Plagued by a rash of recent bad news, Vancouver, British Columbia, is now in the midst of a violent gang war.  The leader of the Red Scorpions street gang, 30-year-old Jonathan Bacon, was gunned-down Sunday while riding in an SUV with a member of the Hells Angels. The shots were fired from outside the SUV and investigators still are unsure whom, specifically, the intended target was.

To get an idea of what solid, local television news looks like, please visit the below link and watch the video.

Unfortunately, hard hitting local television news is tough to come by these days, as ratings books seem to validate what is newsworthy and what is not.  As difficult as it is to believe, some viewers remain glued to their television sets as reporters stand in the white death that falls from the sky each winter.

While it is comforting to know that the residents of Vancouver are getting the low-down on what is actually transpiring in their community, residents of the metro Milwaukee area are updated with only a paragraph or two about a handful of nightly shootings in the newspaper. 

Editors: besides the WHERE, it might also be helpful to further inform readers about the who, what, when, why, and how.  Readers understand that news budgets are tight, but Journalism 101 mandates sufficient answers to the remaining five questions. 

Follow-up: another detailed story pertaining to this gang related shooting.


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

To learn more, visit

© Steve Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011

Kabuki Policing

Earlier this month, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Ben Poston struck a nerve with city officials by highlighting a notable decrease in police response times.

“Compared with 2007 figures,” Poston notes, “police response lagged in 13 of 15 major call categories – only responses to shooting and theft from a vehicle were faster.”

 The Journal Sentinel article further examines a June 16 traffic fatality of an 82-year-old man. The Milwaukee Fire Department arrived in five minutes; however, it took Milwaukee police two hours to respond.  Known, back in the day, as a 20-pointer, a fatal motor vehicle accident should, without question, prompt a timely response.

In another instance, 45 minuets lapsed before officers arrived at a fatal stabbing, where the suspect contacted 9-1-1 and all but confessed to the crime. 

While a tardy law enforcement response to crimes in progress might compromise an ensuing investigation, arriving at calls for service hours after the fact leaves the public with the impression that the police no longer care.

“….a Dispatch policy which discourages people from calling by providing a slow response or no response at all will ultimately discourage people from calling and to lose trust and confidence in the Police Department,” retired Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) Captain Glenn Frankovis noted at the Badger Blogger. “Further, when people stop calling to report crimes, those crimes do not get reflected in crime stats. It’s like the old saying, ‘If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, did it make a noise?’ In this case, ‘If a crime occurs, but no one reports it, did it happen? Could that be why ‘Crime is down’?”

Unfortunately, this dispatch policy exists due to a significant decrease in staffing levels. Depending on which police department insider one speaks with, the MPD is 200 to 400 sworn personnel below its authorized complement. According to one source, a staffing shortage on the day shift recently limited District Five to three, two officer squads, which means just six officers covered a gritty area of over 100,000 residents.  

These day shift staffing levels are woefully inadequate, as the public, as well as the criminal element, needs to know that the police will respond to serious incidents in a timely manner.

So why is it that the City of Milwaukee chooses to under staff its police department?

The consensus is that city leaders have other priorities.  Whether it is the outrageously expensive $76 million—seemingly never-ending—city hall renovation project, spending millions in operating costs to run an electric trolley 2.5 miles through downtown, or providing funding to community organizations, political leaders seem to believe that the MPD can succeed while cutting corners.  After all, crime stats are down. 

Of course, if it takes two or three hours to respond to calls for service, by the time the police arrive, victims might not stick around.  Hence, an officer need not generate a report and, at least on paper, no crime occurred.

Call it Kabuki policing, where the best kind of crime stat is the one that, predictably, never finds its way onto paper.

The good news is Journal Sentinel reporter Ben Poston highlighted the problem. Unless the public complains, however, city leaders will continue to divert resources and deplete police staffing levels. Think about it: the City of Milwaukee, without blinking an eye, is willing to layout $2.5 million in annual operating costs for a trolley very few will ever ride instead of hiring 25 police officers.

And on another note, whatever happened to reporters checking and verifying the clearance rates of various felonies? If suspects remain at large to reoffend, victims will find little solace hopping on the trolley.


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

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, visit

 © Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011