Posts tagged “Ben Poston

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.”

www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/127077973.html

 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’?”

http://badgerblogger.com/?p=20367

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.

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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 www.badgerwordsmith.com/the_psychology_of_homicide_presentation.html

 © Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011