Posts tagged “Milwaukee Journal

Ringing in the New Year: Murder, the Fish Wrapper, and a New Book

If city homicides continue at their current rate, Milwaukee will witness 365 slayings in 2012. Experiencing five murders in as many days is, of course, purely coincidental, although it seems the stars are aligning at an awkward time. In just a few hours, Police Chief Edward Flynn is set to take the oath of office for a second term, a day after an assistant chief retired under a shroud of secrecy.

But this isn’t the first time Milwaukee began the New Year with a bang. Twenty-one years ago, three people were murdered in the early hours of January 1—two at a tavern on S. 15 and W. Mitchell Streets.  As the following link illustrates, the clatter of gunfire ushering in the New Year is a tradition, of sorts, in some Milwaukee neighborhoods.

To avoid being hit by falling lead, some officers make it a point to have a roof over their heads during the first 15 minutes of the year. Things get real ugly in the ensuing hours as drunkenness sometimes results in a run-of-the-mill argument ending with a body or two being scrapped from the pavement.

Adding to the disproportate increase in January homicides is the unseasonably warm weather. Once the frigid cold returns—and it will—armed gang members with a grudge will hunker down inside their heated drug houses. Data driven policing be damned, experience dictates that the next rash of back-to-back homicides will probably occur during the first warm days of early spring.


Seasoned detectives of yore often referred to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and its predecessor, the Milwaukee Journal, as ‘the fish wrapper.’ Obviously, these old school sleuths didn’t think too highly of the crew at 333 W. State Street (although the old Milwaukee Sentinel received higher marks).

Yet I wasn’t surprised to hear that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel—better known these days as—is now charging a fee to view its Web site content. As any sound business model suggests, a company giving away its products for free will soon be out of business.

As of this morning, however, the newspaper’s home page, containing a wide variety of information—such as the popular “News Watch” section—is still accessible at no cost.

Here is some free advice for the brass at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: if you actually want people to pay for the content of your newspaper, lock down your Web site.  Do not surrender a single morsel of information unless readers pay for the content. Otherwise, tight-fisted persons, like me, will not fork over $2.35 month. Why? Residents of southeastern Wisconsin are very frugal (i.e. we’re cheap).

On the other hand, if the JS would increase the size of its staff and actually unearth some news of local import, many of us might be willing to pay $5 a month. Over the past ten years, the corruption scandals involving members of the city’s common council, Ald. Michael McGee Jr.’s shakedown of businesses in his district, and public employees using government computers to advocate on behalf of politicians, have pretty much flown under the newspaper’s radar screen.  Instead, the newspaper has three reporters investigating one of the few public institutions that actually performs reasonably well—the Milwaukee Police Department.


Recently, some readers have asked about a number of previous posts currently unavailable at SF.  To view these outstanding articles, readers will need to purchase Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. I, a Kindle only e-book debuting later this month. I personally selected top-notch pieces, like “Max [Adonnis] & the Mob” and “Serial Killer in Plain Sight for All to See,” for publication. The cost of this new book is just $3 and will be available exclusively at

The proceeds from of Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. I help fund this Web site’s overall operations.


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, 2012

Newspaper’s ‘Hatchet Job’ a Disservice to those in Blue

Over the course of the past week, like Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn, the Spingola Files (SF) staff has taken a deep breath while digesting the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s (JS) attempt to tar a  group of, by-in-large, dedicated Milwaukee police officers with a mile-long brush of misconduct—one that spans nearly 30 years. 

Having worked for the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) for parts of four decades, and having served as a supervisor in the Criminal Investigation Bureau, I can say, without any hesitation, that the MPD’s command staff does not take police misconduct lightly.

There are, however, profound degrees of misconduct. 

Providing a driver’s license to a friend over two-decades ago, so that the friend could enter a tavern, is hardly newsworthy in 2011.  Do the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Watchdogs actually believe that a young officer—guilty of such a minor infraction —should be run-off  the police force? 

If those at the JS expect perfection, good luck.  A state-wide search by Ms. Barton et al would probably uncover only a handful of today’s college graduates with Pope Benedict XVI-like backgrounds.  Like those who have passed before them, today’s police recruits are microcosms of America’s twenty-something demographic, which, in 2011, is the reality TV generation.    

SF certainly is not alone in concluding that the newspaper’s attempt to discredit one of the nation’s best big-city police department’s is simply a hit piece—where the prior journalistic reporting of the author seems to suggest that the research conducted was done with the intent to validate an hypothesis’ aforethought.

Appearing on Mark Belling’s WISN afternoon talk show, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn minced no-words, equating the JS investigation to killing a flea with a sledgehammer. The police chief referred to the newspaper’s three part series as “a hatchet job.”

Writing at the Badger Blogger, retired Milwaukee Police Department Captain Glenn Frankovis also takes aim at the JS series.  As was the case with his scores at the academy’s shooting range, Frankovis’ comments hit the mark.

“Then there’s the grievous case of another Police Aide, Paul Zientek,” Frankovis notes, “who got into an altercation back in 1988 with a guy whose record you just have to check on CCAP. With that knowledge, and after reading the IAD investigation, ask yourself how you would have responded?”

But instead of touching-base with her contacts at the MPD (if any officers actually exist that might trust this particular reporter), the JS staff had no problems publishing Zientek’s photograph on the front page of the newspaper.

Based on my experiences, as well as the observations of other officers, detectives, and supervisors, Paul Zientek is a decent, caring human being—a solid cop who comes to work with a positive attitude to protect and serve the residents of Milwaukee. Failing to conduct a high-degree of due diligence before taking a pot shot at a stand-up person, like Zientek, is, in my opinion, akin to character assassination.

Chief Flynn’s very blunt comments chastising the JS series on the Mark Belling Late Afternoon Show paint a portrait of a high-level police administrator who understands the concept of trust-based policing. Through his decades-long travels through multiple law enforcement agencies, Flynn has walked-a-mile in the shoes of the officers on the street.  While some police administrators and others in the media are sometimes too willing to throw the rank-and-file under the bus to advance their careers, Milwaukee’s current police chief delicately balances matters of officer discipline with the department’s accountability to the community. The chief’s remarks supporting his officers—those who toil in some of the most impoverished parts of the country and see things that would make most people’s heads spin—are gratifying to those who wear or have worn a badge, over the years, for the MPD.

Moreover, for the sake of improving their perception amongst rank-and-file law enforcement, the staff at the JS might want to pick-up a copy of The Cozen Protocol. The  vernacular used to describe the local newspaper, as well as the book’s overall description of the media in general, while fictional, contains some biting truths that the Fourth Estate might want to address.

To hear Chief Flynn’s interview in its entirety, visit:


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