Cop Talk

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


John Andrews–R.I.P.

SF received some very sad news this morning from retired Milwaukee Police Department Detective Larry Powalisz.   John Andrews, a retired Milwaukee homicide detective and current employee of the Twin Lakes PD, was tragically killed in a one car crash on an apparent icy stretch of road.  Please keep John and his family in your hearts and prayers.

Larry provided the following link to the story:

http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/116561823.html

Editor’s Note: the following statement was released by Twin Lakes Police Chief Dale Racer:

http://twinlakespolice.org/press-release/2011-2-20.pdf


Retired Milwaukee PD Captain and Crime-Fighter Extraordinaire to Review Book Exclusively for SF

An Amazon.com 2010 Breakthrough Novel of the Year Award nominee, Mitchell Nevin’s book, The Cozen Protocol, is a story that features a fictional gang war and the Milwaukee Police Department’s response. 

Frequent SF readers are aware that I have touted the book.  The dialogue between characters is solid, which enables the public to walk-a-mile in the shoes of those wearing a badge. 

Today, I am pleased to announce that retired Milwaukee Police Department Captain Glenn Frankovis has agreed to review The Cozen Protocol .  For those of you who are unfamiliar with him, Glenn was a no nonsense commander that minced few words when it came to fighting crime in Milwaukee.  His leadership resulted in significant declines in violent crime rates while leading Districts Five and Three.  He also possesses a unique understanding of the structure of the Milwaukee Police Department and that bureaucracy’s response to unfolding events. 

Glenn Frankovis’ leadership in the area of proactive policing is the uniform equivalent to author and retired Detective Lieutenant Dave Kane’s knowledge of the homicide unit—both men know what makes police officers and detectives tick.

My hope is to have Glenn’s review of The Cozen Protocol posted within the next week.  I am sure that his take on the novel will be worth the wait.

For more information, please visit www.badgerwordsmith.com/books.html

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Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of Predators on the Parkway: a Former Homicide Detective Explores the Colonial Parkway Murders.

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


A Punishing Story of Rumor and Innuendo

To read this article, purchase the Best of the Spingola Files, coming to Amazon.com’s Kindle store in January 2012.

Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of Predators on the Parkway: a Former Homicide Detective Explores the Colonial Parkway Murders

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

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011


Is Milwaukee Sliding Back into the Homicide Abyss?

Ringing in the New Year with a bang is, unfortunately, a tradition practiced in some of Milwaukee’s troubled -neighborhoods.  

I vividly recall the first 30 minutes of a recently ushered-in 1980s New Year, as my squad partner and I stood just outside of District Five.  Initially, some of the area’s residents celebrated with small arms fire.  Within a few minutes, the blasts grew increasingly louder, as if some sort of competition existed to see who had the largest caliber handgun. 

Nonetheless, this bizarre and extremely dangerous form of celebration is the impetus for annual reflection, especially when tallying the number of yearly homicides. 

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) confirm that homicide is the crime most often reported, which is why media outlets tend to focus on the number of bodies that turn-up at the local morgue.   Over the last 15 years, though, many law enforcement veterans believe that significant improvements in trauma care have skewed the homicide rate as a gage for violence.  Instead, some—like retired Milwaukee Police Department Captain Glenn Frankovis—believe the number of persons shot and/or involved in gunfights are a better barometer of violent crime trends.

Locally, how violent crime is measured will once again become a heated topic of debate.  In 2010, Milwaukee’s homicide rate jumped 31 percent—the largest single year increase since 2005, when homicides increased almost 39 percent. 

Optimists note that the 91 homicides committed in 2010 are still much lower that the all-time record of 168 in 1991, the year that Jeffrey Dahmer’s murderous rampage was uncovered.   

“We understand that the dynamics and motivation of some forms of homicide are susceptible to police tactics and some are not,” Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  “We need to find out which are and which aren’t.”

Flynn blames the significant spike in homicides to multiple-victim cases. 

http://www.jsonline.com/news/crime/112736814.html

Pessimists, however, believe that cuts to the overtime budget and changes in the detective bureau are beginning to hamper the MPD’s ability to clear violent crimes, which means offenders remain at large to victimize others. 

No doubt, journalists and politicians will likely scrutinize the MPD’s 2010 clearance rate for homicides and other serious offenses.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Jesse Garza—a reporter in-charge of a homicide related blog—notes that a database maintained by that newspaper suggests 40 of Milwaukee’s homicides from 2010 remain unsolved—a clearance rate of just 56 percent.

http://www.jsonline.com/news/crime/112734664.html

With discourse concerning local crime numbers looming, it is imperative to juxtapose Milwaukee’s homicide statistics with other cities.

Unofficial numbers show Chicago homicides fell almost 3.5 percent from 2009 to 447.

http://homicides.redeyechicago.com/

In 2010, however, Chicago’s per capita homicide rate was slightly higher than Milwaukee’s.

News accounts from the west coast suggest Los Angeles is set to record fewer than 300 homicides “for the first time in four decades.”

http://www.newspressnow.com/localnews/26055023/detail.html

If Los Angeles, a city of almost 3.9 million, had the same homicide rate as Milwaukee in 2010, the city of angles would have experienced 591 homicides.

In 2010, Philadelphia, a tough town with a reputation for violence, recorded 305 homicides. 

http://www.centredaily.com/2010/12/30/2425495/philadelphia-violent-crime-fell.html

With a population of almost 1.5 million, Philadelphia would have registered 85 fewer homicides if that city experienced the same per capita murder rate as Milwaukee.

These numbers suggest that Milwaukee’s per capita homicide rate is relatively high. More alarming, however, is the clearance rate, even though official numbers, as well as the methods used to ascertain these statistics, have yet to be reported.

No doubt, with 91 victims of homicide, Milwaukee is in need of a lead abatement program. If Los Angeles, home of the Bloods, the Crips, and Sur 13, can reduce its homicide rates to unprecedented levels, one would think a city of 600,000 could do the same.

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Steve Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of Predators on the Parkway: a Former Homicide Detective Explores the Colonial Parkway Murders.

Checkout Steve Spingola’s seminar, The Psychology of Homicide, by visiting http://badgerwordsmith.com/the_psychology_of_homicide_presentation.html

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011


In Chicago, Tripe Springs Eternal

If there is any wonder why gang violence threatens the stability of the city of Chicago, all one needs to do is read a handful of blogs emanating from the windy city’s politically charged, open mayoral race environment, where even the deaths of police officers have resulted in a hue-and-cry from the usual suspects. 

One such grammatically challenged and punctuation error-filled blog, published by Mark Sallen, an associate editor of the South Street Journal, highlights the problem. 

In a post entitled, “Why the Silence on Police and Media Updates on the Killing of Chicago Police Officer David Blake,” Sallen suggests that Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis and his detectives are prioritizing the homicide investigations of police officers based on race. 

Last month, killers took the lives of two Chicago Police Department veterans—Evidence Technician Michael Flist, who is white, and Police Officer David Blake, who is African-American. 

Off-duty at the time, Blake was shot-and-killed while smoking a cigarette in his SUV along a secluded, one-block street. A gunman murdered Flisk, an on-duty forensic specialist, in an alley during the investigation of a garage burglary.   

Last week, Chicago police arrested a convicted felon in connection with Flisk’s murder. Timothy Herring, Jr., a 19-year-old parolee on electronic monitoring for a 2007 armed robbery conviction, allegedly gunned-down Flisk and former Chicago Housing Authority Police Officer Stephen Peters.  

The homicide of Officer David Blake, however, remains open, as detectives piece together the sketchy details of what transpired inside the off-duty officer’s SUV. 

In his blog post, Sallen notes that “anonymous sources” tell him that there are “personal issues” involved in Blake’s death. 

“On the day of Officer Blakes killing,” Sallen writes, “I ran to the scene for it was on the other end our our Seipp Street block and I seen various neighbors looking out the windows as officers began to assemble at the scene, but NONE of these neighbors were questioned by Detectives after the rumor was that a man left the scene running down our block in a Black hat as to whether anyone on the block may have seen anyone.”

So poorly constructed is this sentence that it is difficult to comprehend that Sallen is an actual editor of anything written in the English language. However, how would Sallen know whom the police had interviewed?  After all, the good money says that neighbors providing details of a cold-blooded murder to detectives might be reluctant to give interviews to Sallen, a publisher of a newspaper and an individual lending street creditability to Wallace “Gator” Bradley. 

According to Sallen’s post, Bradley, of United for Peace—an outfit closely associated with the nefarious Gangster Disciples street gang and their imprisoned leader, Larry Hoover—is one of the community organizers “who were thinking out loud when they asked the question of whether it was wrong to think that the killing of a White Police Officer on The East Side got public 24/7 coverage and the killing of Black Officer David Blake does not see Weis doing public briefing after briefing and his personal commitment to using every resource of the police department to see that this case is resolved?”

Readers of the Spingola Files are keenly aware that SF is no fan of Jody Weis. It is, however, these so-called activists—the Sallens and Bradleys advocating and publishing such drivel—that have poisoned the well of cooperation in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. The type of demagoguery contained in Sallen’s post simply builds walls of distrust between the police and the community.  

While Sallen’s post did little besides butcher the English language, Chicago detectives are painstakingly reconstructing the last 24 hours of David Blake’s life. Without a doubt, Blake’s cellular telephone records—text messages, incoming and outgoing calls, GPS identifiers and tower pings—may provide investigators with significant clues, as it is apparent that Blake likely knew his killer.

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Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler and Predators on the Parkway: a Former Homicide Detective Explores the Colonial Parkway Murders.  Spingola also presents The Psychology of Homicide, a riveting program concerning high-profile homicide investigations, to groups and organizations.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010


Book Marking a Good Stocking Stuffer

With Christmas and the holidays right around the corner, many of SF’s readers will soon find themselves beating the winter blues by curling up on the sofa with a warm blanket and a good book.  

Over the past few months, I’ve paged through some interesting reads.  Here’s a short list:

The Murder Room, by Michael Capuzzo

In the 1990s, three renowned investigators—a former FBI agent, a U.S. Customs agent, and a forensic pathologist —gathered together informally in a Philadelphia meeting room and formed the Vidocq Society.   Named after a famed French sleuth, the group explores cold case murders.  The catch: a detective from the investigating agency must formally present the case. 

http://www.amazon.com/Murder-Room-Sherlock-Holmes-Perplexing/dp/1592401422/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1288405755&sr=1-1

Worst Case, by James Patterson

When the son of a wealthy New York family is abducted, Detective Michael Bennett catches the case.  But the kidnapper isn’t demanding the typical ransom.  The well connected family uses its connections to involve a slew of politicians and the FBI.

http://www.amazon.com/Worst-Case-James-Patterson/dp/0446565725/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1288405831&sr=1-1

The Cozen Protocol, by Mitchell Nevin

As two cutthroat gangs battle over drug turf, Milwaukee’s sitting police chief, under fire for his department’s lackluster performance, decides to retire.  His decision sets off an internal power struggle.  A dedicated detective, a savvy defense attorney, a talk-radio host , and a television news reporter diligently piece together a complicated puzzle.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Cozen-Protocol-First-ebook/dp/B002NGO456/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1288406545&sr=1-1

Killing Pablo: the Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw, by Mark Bowden

In the 1980s, Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar brazenly exploited the South American cocaine trade.  With a fleet of yachts and a portfolio of expensive real estate, Escobar was one of the world’s largest drug kingpins.  When the U.S. government began providing resources to their Columbian colleagues, agency infighting was the only thing standing in the way of killing Pablo.  Very applicable to the current situation in Mexico.

http://www.amazon.com/Killing-Pablo-Worlds-Greatest-ebook/dp/B0031M9XUM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=merchant-items&qid=1288406978&sr=1-1

So many good books but only so much time to read them. 

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Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler and Predators on the Parkway: a Former Homicide Detective Explores the Colonial Parkway Murders.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010


City’s Violent Night Highlights Print Media’s Decline

Over the past two years, the city of Milwaukee’s homicide rate has seen a significant decline.  One can argue the reasons: the shrinking 14 to 24 year-old demographic age group, the stellar performance of paramedics, the professionalism of the Froedtert Hospital ER staff, and/or Chief Edward Flynn’s data driven enforcement.  In 2010, however, perpetrators have apparently taken better aim, as the number of Milwaukee homicides has already exceeded all of 2009. 

Without a doubt, violence is on the uptick.  Early Friday morning, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that two people were killed and another shot during separate robberies on the city’s near north side. 

But even a better indication that Milwaukeeans, in general, have become accustom to the violence is the manner in which the dead tree version of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel covered the investigations. 

 On Saturday morning, the newspaper simply printed a small inch-and-a-half article entitled “Two Killed, One Injured in Overnight Shootings,” which provided minimal detail about Milwaukee’s violent night.

Many moons ago, as a rookie officer, I vividly recall the Milwaukee Journal and the Milwaukee Sentinel vigorously exploring serious crimes.  Reporters frequently sought background information about the victims by interviewing neighbors and family members.  Frequently, the newspapers followed-up and reported about ongoing investigations and kept the community appraised.

Granted, the dramatic decline of print journalism is part of the problem. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is a shell of its former self.  Budget cuts showed many experienced reporters the door and have resulted in a local page devoid of thorough coverage.  With advertising revenues in the doldrums, those in the newspaper industry are left clinging to their once busy printing presses by their ink-stained fingernails. 

Undoubtedly, some will argue that other forms of information—blogs and Internet news outlets—fill-in some of the remaining gaps.  Yet the inevitable collapse of the Fourth Estate, as we know it, will leave the next generation with a reduced ability to conduct research and understand the dynamics of Milwaukee’s past. Just as importantly, those who currently operate institutions—private and public—around town clearly realize there are fewer eyes watching. The county pension scandal, the Open Sky radio debacle, the $1.3 billion failure that is the Milwaukee Public Schools, and the ever growing list of sewage dumping, depict the ebb of the influence of print journalism in Milwaukee.

And the media is partly to blame, as well.  To boost sales, they sensationalize the news instead of simply conducting solid reporting, although one would think that adequate, in-depth coverage of Milwaukee’s violent night would cause more readers to pick-up a few more copies.

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Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of Predators on the Parkway: a Former Homicide Detective Explores the Colonial Parkway Murders. 

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI 2010


Gun Toting in Madison: Are All Constitutional Rights Considered Equal?

With the exception of Berkeley, California, the city of Madison, Wisconsin is probably the most liberal town in the United States, although activists there prefer the label “progressive.”  But an incident that occurred at a northeast side restaurant is testing the Madison Police Department’s respect for the state and federal Constitutions.   

On September 18, five men decided to pay a visit to a Culver’s restaurant, located near the popular East Towne Mall.  Seated at a picnic table outside, the men politely conversed over some custard that they had purchased.  The only thing that distinguished these particular customers from the others was the holstered firearms that they openly carried. 

Wondering if such conduct was lawful, a 62-year-old woman contacted the Madison police.  Soon, a swarm of officers responded to the call of gun-toting, custard eating men. 

When the officers arrived, they demanded identification.  Two of the five men politely declined to identify themselves.  They were handcuffed, searched, and issued tickets for obstructing the issuance of a citation.  In Wisconsin, however, individuals contacted by law enforcement are not required to identity themselves unless they’re operating a motor vehicle, where the law requires the production of a driver’s license.

A legal representative for the five men, members of a group that advocates the open carry of firearms, immediately threatened legal action.

And it looks as if the men may have a case.

It seems the actions of the Madison officers, and the subsequent response from their chief-of-police, runs contrary to a April 19, 2009, opinion issued by Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.

“His [Attorney General Van Hollen’s] memorandum to prosecutors” writes Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Patrick Marley, “says the mere act of having a gun does not warrant a charge of disorderly conduct, a position that pro-gun advocates have argued in several recent legal cases.” 

Van Hollen further explained that openly carrying firearms, even if technically legal, does not exempt those who do so from questioning.  Of course, the current state of the law allows a law enforcement officer to contact virtually anyone in a public place.  There is some ambiguity in the AG’s opinion as it relates to an official stop and the subsequent temporary detention of an individual if a reasonable suspicion does not exist that they are violating a local ordinance or state law, which goes to the heart of the Madison Police Department’s actions. 

After all, absent an officer’s belief that a reasonable suspicion exists that a crime is being committed, has been committed or is about to be committed, citizens are not obligated to comply when simply contacted by the police.

But instead of apologizing to the two men, who were handcuffed, searched and cited for doing nothing illegal, it appears that the Madison police have dug in their heels. After releasing the two citations for obstructing the issuance of a citation, Madison’s police chief, Noble Wray, ordered his officers to issue each of the five men disorderly conduct citations.

“The complaint clearly reveals she [the woman who called the police] recognized the potential for violence from these armed men and it was this fear that motivated her call to police,” Madison Police Department spokesman Joel DeSpain told the Wisconsin State Journal. 

On Friday, however, WTMJ talk-show host and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Wagner obtained the 62-year-old woman’s 911 call, where she clearly told the 911 operator that she was not disturbed but simply found the presence of openly carried firearms out of place.  On his show, Wagner went so far as to call Madison’s police chief “a liar.”

Listen to the 911 call by following this link: http://www.examiner.com/gun-rights-in-washington-dc/madison-five-911-call-video

It appears that, after the fact and facing the possibility of legal action from the open carry organization, the Madison Police Department sent detectives to re-interview the woman. Why these detectives were assigned follow-up to a complaint, that any objective person, having listened to the 911 tape would find baseless, I believe, points to some skillful posterior covering. 

But the police chief’s response goes further. 

In a September 22, 2010, news release, Noble Wray tells his officers that, “The individual [openly carrying a firearm] should be contacted, controlled, and frisked for weapons if appropriate. Officers should separate the suspect from any weapons in his/her possession during the encounter.”

But what if the party simply being ‘contacted’ for conduct the Wisconsin Attorney General believes is lawful does not wish to comply and is then ‘controlled’ and their lawfully held property seized for examination? Wray’s memo seems to place his officers in the field between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

You can bet that open carry advocates will continue to push the envelope and many of these issues will likely be decided in state and federal courts. 

In the meantime, taxpayers in the city of Madison—hang on to your wallets.

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Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of Predators on the Parkway: a Former Homicide Detective Explores the Colonial Parkway Murders.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010


“Secret Meeting” with Gang Members Runs Amuck in Chi-town

About 100 miles to the southeast of the laid-back, small town of Wales, Wisconsin–home to the Spingola Files HQ, the bustling city of Chicago seems worlds away. Yet the controversy surrounding Chicago’s Police Superintendent, Jody Weis, is reminiscent of a southeastern Wisconsin brouhaha that occurred nearly two-decades ago.

Through forwarded e-mails from those in law enforcement, as well as reports in the media, it appears that—at least amongst rank-and-file Chicago cops—Weis is as popular as a contagious virus. 

Mayor Richard M. Daley’s political machinery hired Weis, a 23-year veteran of the FBI, two-and-and-half-years ago.  Prior to becoming Chicago’s 54th Superintendent of Police, Weis was the FBI’s Assistant Deputy Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility—fancy terminology for being the second in command of  the FBI’s internal affairs unit.  In other words, he had no local law enforcement expreience. 

Members of Daley’s inner circle believed Weis would reform the Chicago PD, which, like many other big-city police departments had—rightly or wrongly—come under fire for a variety of issues.

The Daley machine’s experiment has apparently gone awry.

In late August, Chicago Police Lieutenant John Andrews disclosed that he is under investigation by the superintendent’s internal affairs unit for posting, to say the least, his not-so-complementary opinions of Weis on a personal blog. 

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-met-police-officer-blog-20100825,0,1041713.story

In most police departments, internal affairs is the only unit that reports directly to the agency’s chief-of-police or superintendent, which means the investigation of Andrews is being overseen by Weis.  As such, there is little doubt regarding the investigation’s outcome, even though Andrews’ take appears to represent the majority of the Chicago PD’s rank-and-file.

It is, however, a meeting Weis recently arranged with Chicago street thugs that has become the lightning rod for critics, not just inside Chicago political circles, but throughout law enforcement in the Midwest.    

According to the Chicago Tribune, Weis, federal authorities, and others “secretly met with a group of West Side gang leaders at the Garfield Park Conservatory [in August], informing them over snacks and beverages that they would be held directly accountable for shootings and other violent crimes committed by their gangs.”

To many rank-and-file cops, especially those old enough to recall the 1980s police drama Hill Street Blues, Weis’ sit down with street toughs appeared eerily reminiscent of Frank Firillo, the captain of the Hill Street precinct, who, on occasion, would bring local gang bangers into his office for discussions.  

A similar event almost occurred in Milwaukee in the early 1990s, when the administration of Phil Arreola, a police chief also hired from the outside, hinted at an outreach with members of the Conservative Vice Lords.  Popular conservative talk-show host Mark Belling had a field day with the notion, which kind-of just went away.  Others would say the idea was a trial balloon turned burning Zeppelin before it was officially ever floated.

Mitchell Nevin’s fictional book, The Cozen Protocol, portrays a comparable incident that appears ripped from the pages of the Arreola era (a suggestion to Mayor Daley: down load a copy to your i-Phone. The end result is not a positive one).

To be fair, Weis, on the other hand, portrayed the meeting with gang bangers as an opportunity to lay-down the law.  While appearing on WBBM radio’s At Issue program, (which airs tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.), the superintendent said he was “shocked and amazed” at the negative reaction.

http://wbbm.cbslocal.com/2010/09/03/top-cop-shocked-and-amazed-by-reaction-to-gang-meet/

 Mayor Daley, echoing the mantra often used to justify touchy-feely policies, told the Chicago Tribune the meeting was ‘worth pursuing if it could save a life.’

Critics, including myself, charge that arranging a “secret meeting” with gang members provides these groups with instant street creditability. Moreover, why was this meeting, if it was indeed such a solid concept, conducted under the shroud of secrecy?  My guess is that Chicago’s version of Mark Belling, if one does exist, might have created the spark needed to engulf Weis’ wobbly Zeppelin.

After all, wouldn’t a meeting with the good kids—those striving to do the right things in some of Chicago’s troubled neighborhoods—have been more productive and deserving of these public officials’ time, as well as the snacks and beverages given, for free, to the thug element?  

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Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of “The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler” and “Predators on the Parkway: a Former Homicide Detective Explores the Colonial Parkway Murders.”

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010


M.P.D. Blue — A Portrait of Police Work

As a lieutenant in the Milwaukee Police Department’s homicide unit, Dave Kane had a reputation as a straight shooter who—in his passion for the job—didn’t mince words. As such, I wasn’t the least bit surprised to find Dave’s new book, M.P.D. Blue, a no-nonsense saga of his 30 years of police service.

For those of you interested in police work, M.P.D. Blue is a must-read. Last week, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Jim Stingl profiled the book:

http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/96944404.html

Stingl focused on Kane’s involvement as a supervisor during the Jeffrey Dahmer investigation and his infiltration—albeit brief—of the Ku Klux Klan.  Without a doubt, these two stories are intersting to the general public.  I, on other hand, having walked a mile in his shoes as lieutenant of detectives, enjoyed the darts Dave occasionally threw that hit their mark. 

One chapter of the book, entitled The Cigarette Package, describes the attention to detail of Homicide Detective Greg Schuler.  After a citizen discovered a prostitute strangled to death in an alley near N. 27th Street and W. Fond du lac Avenue, Kane and Schuler responded to the scene to investigate. 

This area is a notoriously seedy section of Milwaukee peppered with litter and garbage.  The victim, a black female, was partially disrobed and had a wooden stick shoved in her vagina.  In the midst of the clutter, Schuler had to decipher which pieces of litter had the potential for evidentiary value. One of the items Schuler collected from amongst the debris was a crusty cigarette package. 

A few days later, Schuler called Kane to explain that an evidence technician developed a latent fingerprint from the cigarette pack that belonged to a young male living in the area. 

“You mean to tell me,” Kane quotes himself telling Schuler, “that you picked up a cigarette pack at the [garbage filled] scene?”  Schuler explained that, having examined the filthy alley, he believed the suspect might have dropped the package. A short time thereafter, Schuler had a suspect in custody who confessed to the crime. 

Within the scope of two days, Schuler had cleared two homicides with confessions. Kane was so appreciative of the detective’s work that he nominated Schuler for the Milwaukee Police Department’s Superior Achievement Award.  Months later, however, the award went to “a uniformed sergeant for devising a plan that saved the department two reams of copy paper.”  Kane explains, “But that was the Milwaukee Police Department.  The CIB [the detective bureau] was viewed as the bastard child sometimes.”

In M.P.D. Blue, Kane writes of an incident where he came just inches from losing his life.  On November 13, 1970, Kane and his partner, Dick Shannon, conducted a traffic stop for a defective taillight. 

As Kane handed the driver, Lee Seward, a releasable citation for an equipment violation, he observed what he believed to be a flash bulb popping and initially thought a firecracker had exploded; however, within a few seconds, it became clear that someone had fired a shot. The two beat cops ran back to their squad, backed-up a short distance, and radioed a call of “shots fired.” 

As a cop involved in a few similar situations, hearing dozens of sirens responding is indeed a Godsend.

What occurred next, though, was difficult for the two officers to decipher.  The passenger of the vehicle, a Ford convertible, exited and lay prone of the ground.  They later discovered that a sniper with a .30-06 rifle took a shot at Kane, who was at the driver’s side door. 

Officers whisked Kane to the hospital to treat a graze wound to his arm.

“When I got to the hospital,” Kane writes, “I noticed some peculiar substance sprayed all over the front of my coat. I would later learn that the substance was the exploded brain matter of Lee Seward. The bullet that had struck my arm had continued onward, striking Mr. Seward in the head as he sat in his car.” 

Of course, the passenger, believing the police had summarily executed the courteous driver for no apparent reason, exited to surrender. 

The next day, two officers stopped Willie Triplett and Willie Campbell.  A search of their vehicle turned-up the .30-06 used to kill Seward.  The two teenaged-boys told investigators that they wanted to “kill a pig.”  A month earlier, the pair had shot and killed a security guard they believed was a police officer.  Unknown to Kane’s partner, a week prior to the death of Seward, the pair shot at Shannon’s unoccupied squad.  Investigators later discovered the round lodged under the vehicle’s gas pedal.

M.P.D. Blue, a quick read well-worth its cost, is a collection of almost two dozen other interesting warstories.  Here is a link to view more details about the book:

https://www2.xlibris.com/bookstore/bookdisplay.aspx?bookid=81892

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Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s Northside Strangler.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010


Common Sense Policing and Newark

In many of our nation’s cities, homicides rates are falling.  Some attribute the decrease in the murder rate to policing strategies; others cite demographic changes and/or improved trauma care.

In an amazing turn of events, Newark, New Jersey, recently experienced a homicide free month — the city’s first since 1966.  For decades, Newark’s reputation as playground for the criminal element undermined any serious efforts at re-gentrification. 

Visitors to Newark note that hotels and other amenities are contained within the security of airport’s fence.  “For the most part,” one traveler recently explained, “people don’t leave the airport at Newark unless they visit the city [New York].”

But Newark isn’t alone.  In 2009, Washington, D.C., once known as the District of Death, saw a 25 percent decrease in homicides.  Milwaukee recorded 72 homicides in 2009, down over 57 percent from 1991. 

Glenn Frankovis is a retired Milwaukee Police Department captain with a history of implementing policing strategies that reduce violent crime rates.  At the end of 2002, his first full year as the commander at District Three, homicides decreased over 48 percent.  “Violent crime is committed primarily by thugs,” Frankovis notes. “You see, it’s kind of hard for thugs to do their dirty work if they are in jail.”

Frankovis notes that political leaders in Newark turned things around when they brought in Police Director Garry McCarthy, a “transplant” from New York City. Newark now employs a “Broken Windows Theory/Quality of Life Policy,” similar to the strategy Frankovis used to drive down crime in Milwaukee’s troubled Metcalfe Park neighborhood. 

As is the case in Newark, Frankovis is a believer in decentralized policing; whereby, district commanders are afforded the resources to form a “strike force” of officers “capable of using neighborhood intelligence” to “arrest the drug dealers/users and others intimidating the good people” in various hotspots.  Given the latitude and the resources required to get the job done, the chief-of-police then holds these commanders’ feet-to-the-fire.

Demographic trends also play a large role in crime reduction.  Criminologists often claim that men between the ages of 16 to 24 are the core group of violent criminal offenders.  The number of individuals in this demographic is declining.  On April 6, the U.S. Center for Disease Control reported that, in 2008, the U.S. birthrate declined two percent.  Moreover, the birth rate among teenaged mothers — whose offspring make-up a disproportionate number of offenders — also decreased two percent.

The good news on the crime front is that efficient and effective policing strategies, coupled with a decrease in teen birth rates, will probably make our nation’s streets safer for years to come.

After all, if Newark — a city once considered beyond hope — can reduce its homicide rate, other cities can, too.

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Steven Spingola is a retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

Copyright, Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010


To Death Do Us Part?

To read this article, purchase The Best of the Spingola Files, coming to Amazon.com’s Kindle store in January 2012.

Steven Spingola is a retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

Copyright, Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010