Posts tagged “Milwaukee police

Police Use of Force: A Wedge Issue for Grievance Politicians

The use of force by law enforcement has been the issue du jour in the news lately.   While Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri has dominated national headlines, the shooting death of unarmed Dontre Hamilton, a troubled 31-year-old man killed by a police officer at Milwaukee’s Red Arrow Park in April, resulted in a smaller, yet similar, protest last Friday.

Some of the African-American political officials present brought a litany of complaints to the table: the high rate of joblessness in the black community, poverty, ignorance, and despair.  While serving in their public capacities, however, many of these same African-American officials have actually done little to pass laws that would significantly curb the use of excessive police force.

For instance, state legislatures can pass laws that expand the rights of individuals beyond those that are constitutionally protected.  One example is Wisconsin state statute 946.75, which criminalizes an officer’s denial of an individual’s request “…to consult and be advised by an attorney at law at personal expense, whether or not such person is charged with a crime” while in police custody.  From my experience, though, the most effective way to curb police abuse is not the criminalization of some forms of law enforcement conduct.   After all, how many officers have ever been convicted for violating § 946.75?  None that I know of, even though there have been documented instances of police officers violating this statute.

Some, especially civil rights attorneys, believe lawsuits are the answer, even though the vast majority of the monetary costs and damages associated with police officer lawsuits are absorbed by a municipality’s insurance.  Consequently, the only persons actually feeling any pain from police officer use of force lawsuits are the taxpayers.

Most law enforcement officers and district attorneys are going to cringe when they read this; nevertheless, the most effective way to marginalize the use of excessive force is the suppression of evidence.  The U.S. Supreme Court appeared to steer the nation’s courts this way in Graham v. Conner, 490 U.S. 386 (1989); whereby, the Court shifted the constitutional protection of an excessive use of police force (for those not incarcerated in jails or prisons) from the Fourteenth Amendment to the Fourth Amendment, in effect, making an excessive use of force tantamount to an unlawful seizure.

Defense attorneys soon realized that a remedy to an unlawful seizure might be the suppression of evidence, and cases began working their way through the courts.   In U.S. v. Watson, 558 F.3d 702,  the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals abruptly put the kibosh on such a defense by finding no casual connection between the evidence collected and the seizure of a defendant via an excessive use of police force, even though the sole purpose of suppression is to discourage police misconduct.  The Wisconsin Court of Appeals used the Watson decision as a catalyst to negate the suppression of evidence based on excessive police use of force in State v. Herr, 346 Wis. 2d 603.

Regardless of the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling or a Wisconsin court’s finding in State v. Herr, the state legislature can — when it sees fit — offer more rights by law than the Constitution or the courts grant.  If the Milwaukee delegation in the state legislature is so outraged by what it sees as a pattern of excessive force on the part of the police, why is it then that not one Democrat has offered a bill to suppress evidence seized after a police use of excessive force, not even during the Doyle years when the Democrats controlled all three branches of government?

Some officers believe that the police use of force is being used by Democrats as a wedge issue.  In other words, African-American lawmakers use these protests to garner some street credibility and to gin-up their political base, but, when the rubber meets the road, they fail to propose legislation that would suppress evidence gathered as a result of an excessive use of police force.  In this way, the issue of excessive force stays alive for yet another day to be used whenever the grievance political community sees fit.

Unfortunately, based on the turnout at Friday’s protest at Red Arrow Park, it appears that Democrat lawmakers from Milwaukee are playing their base like a fiddle.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available at

If your organization is on the lookout for an outstanding guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, visit and click the “seminars & presentations” icon.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2014

Michael Bloomberg’s Very Revealing Constitutional Faux Pas

Less than two months after a populist U.S. Senate filibuster forced the executive branch of the federal government to concede that using drones to kill American citizens on U.S. soil is bad policy, New York City Mayor Michael “Big Brother” Bloomberg’s relentless assault on freedom and liberty continues unabated.

“We have to understand that in the world going forward, we’re going to have more cameras and that kind of stuff,” said Bloomberg during an April 22 news conference. “That’s good in some senses, but it’s different than what we are used to. And the people who are worried about privacy have a legitimate worry, but we live in a complex world where you’re going to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution I think have to change.”

Make no mistake about, when elitists propose a reinterpretation of the Constitution their intent is to place this sacred document through the shredder of statist legalese.  If Bloomberg et al were honest in their intentions, a process already exists to change or amend the United States Constitution.  However, since the implementation of a Chinese-style police state is about as popular as AIDS, the Machiavellian-types—constantly on the lookout for new ways to get their hands in our wallets and their boots on our necks—emphasize the Constitution as a living document.

The living document mantra stems, primarily, from the incorporation of technological advances into the legal body fabric.

For example, one question I sometimes pose to students is, “What does the Constitution say about motor vehicle searches?” The answer is rather easy. The Constitution says absolutely nothing about motor vehicles since none existed in 1788, the year the document was ratified.  Ninety-one years later, Karl Benz received the first patent for a reliable two-stroke combustion engine. As a result, laws and legal concepts pertaining to motor vehicles on public roadways required interpretation from the judicial branch to clarify issues like the reasonable search and seizure clause of the Fourth Amendment.

Nowhere in the Bill of Rights does it state that a rich, eccentric politician can stand in front of the media and myopically deem our Constitutional protections from overzealous governmental reach a product of “the olden days,” as if our freedoms and liberties went the way of the electric typewriter.

And what bold idea is New York City’s nanny-state mayor now advocating?  An expansion of government surveillance, even though the $500 billion our nation has already spent in this area has failed miserably in several instances, including the attacks on Boston. As I mentioned in a prior post, surveillance cameras will not prevent terrorist attacks. Individuals intent on dying are undeterred by technology that captures and stores their images.

No doubt, political correctness is the reason politicians continue to travel down the same road of wide-spread Orwellian surveillance, even though a prudent course of action—one that would prevent actual terror attacks while preserving our freedoms—is tracking, monitoring and investigating, those with an actual motive.

Had Milwaukee’s police chief, Ed Flynn, advocated suppressing the criminal activities of the Latin Kings by placing surveillance cameras on traffic control signals in a predominately African-American neighborhood on the city’s north side, many would say that the police chief is either very uninformed or his department has an ulterior agenda. Why, then, do so many Americans, as well as a majority of the mainstream media, fail to challenge the surveillance initiatives advocated by Bloomberg and the federal government that target millions of Americans while ignoring the obvious?

After all, it is not rocket science to connect the dots. What do the shoe bomber, the Time Square bomber, the Ft. Hood shooter, and the Boston bombers, all have in common?  President Obama, I know it’s difficult to say it—Islamic Jihad.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest print edition only book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available at

If your organization is on the lookout for an outstanding guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, visit and click the “seminars & presentations” icon.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013

Google Glasses Have Law Enforcement “Giddy” at the Possibilities


When it comes to high-tech government surveillance—the electronic concentration camp New York City’s nanny-state mayor, Michael Bloomberg, revels in creating—law enforcement administrators on the lookout for ‘free federal money’ and politicians addicted to handouts in the form of campaign contributions—conveniently search for innovative ways to turn technology against the citizenry.

Recently, I have had a few matter-of-fact conversations with those who believe “Google glasses” will someday become standard equipment for police officers on patrol.

At a cost of $1,500 each, “Google Glasses” enable a wearer to shoot video, search the internet, and send e-mail via voice command.

“Each pair of glasses is fitted with a miniaturised camera and web browser which displays digital information on a tiny screen — a clear plastic block the width of a pencil — just in front and slightly above a wearer’s eye,” Daily Mail reporter Tom Leonard notes.  “The arm of the headset, which sits near the wearer’s temple, acts as a touch pad. By sliding your finger up and down it, you can scroll through the text visible in your eyepiece. To select something on the screen, the user simply taps the headset.”

Last October, found Google’s efforts to acquire the company Viewdle as “particularly interesting.”  Viewable is a facial recognition software company that “specializes in augmented reality and automatic face tagging.” In other words, if this technology is incorporated into Google Glasses, wearers could compare the faces of those they view against private sector databases, enabling them to know the identities and backgrounds of those nearby.

Behind the scenes, high-ranking federal, state, and local law enforcement officials are giddy about the possibilities of these hands-free glasses.  Imagine a scenario where a cop on the beat could simply look at an individual walking down the sidewalk and, instantly, compare that person’s image against biometrical information—computer generated software that assigns a mathematical equation to faces, ears, and noses—stored in every state’s department of motor vehicle’s data base and the FBI’s $1.2 billion Next Generation Identification system. Within a matter of seconds, information federally subsidized intelligence fusion centers purchase from private sector companies, such as ChoicePoint and Acxiom, could alert the officer to their target’s occupation, credit score, hobbies, family members, and the identifies of close personal associates.

Moreover, law enforcement envisions another scenario—the collection of faces and license plates observed by the viewer, which would then get time-stamped, geo-tagged, and stored indefinitely. When an individual becomes a suspect, a protestor, or maybe even a political opponent, government agents could access these data bases to create a timeline concerning their precise whereabouts.

One can only imagine the data just one Milwaukee police officer wearing such glasses could input by viewing a crowd at bar time on Water Street.

As I detail these types of intrusive technologies to others, many people tend to shrug their shoulders as if the say, ‘Oh, well, this is the world we live in.’ There is, however, no need to act like sheep being led to the slaughter. Call your state and federal representatives. Sure, many elected officials, especially those receiving campaign contributions from lobbyists affiliated with companies that profit by marginalizing our freedoms, might seem stand-offish. Nonetheless, they do, supposedly, work for those they purport to represent and not the members of the security-industrial complex.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest print edition only book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available at

If your organization is on the lookout for an outstanding guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, visit and click the “seminars & presentations” icon.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013

Update: New Spingola Files Book Now Available

If you own a Kindle, an i-Phone, an i-Pad, an Android, a Mac or a PC, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You is now available for purchase exclusively at  Simply download the Kindle app to any of these devices and click this link:

Readers will get my take on a killer drifter, the details of the homicide investigation of two young Milwaukee girls, the guilty verdict of Drew Peterson, an examination of the emerging American surveillance state, as well as 36 additional articles of criminal justice import.

Within 24 hours after the book’s release, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You debuted at #5 on’s criminal procedure list and ranked #15 on Amazon’s list of “hot new releases.”

Kindle gift cards are available at Give the gift of reading this Christmas!


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. I, is available at

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

For more information, please visit:

© Steven Spingola,Wales, WI, 2012

How Government Officials, Entrepreneurs & Stalkers Use ‘Back Doors’ to Monitor Your Movements

Over the course of the past year, SF has taken the mainstream media to task for its failure to inform the public about the ever expanding, post 9/11 surveillance state.

Libertarians and Constitutionalists argue that our federally elected officials used the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, committed by Islamic radicals, as a pretext to gut the Fourth Amendment protections of ordinary Americans. Some experts believe that since 9/11, the federal government has spent $350-$600 billion building a high-tech, domestic spying infrastructure designed to chronicle the day-to-day movements of virtually all individuals absent a suspicion of wrong doing.

Earlier this month, Fox News 6 in Milwaukee—to their credit—did an investigative segment on Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) technology.

While the Fox News 6 report does an excellent job explaining how police agencies use the technology, the segment failed to elaborate on how local, state and federal authorities plan to store and use the data captured by license plate readers installed on squad cars, bridges, toll roads, and poles along interstate highways.

At a 2010 National Institute for Justice Conference, Dale Stockton, a program manager for the Automated Regional Justice Information System in San Diego, addressed a panel of police officials and prosecutors concerning the politics of sharing ALPR data, and was recorded saying:

“We’re probably not going to have any centralized national giant bucket of license plate reader data. It probably wouldn’t stand the court of public opinion, and it’s probably something that, given where we are in the rollout cycle, wouldn’t easily be done, but we can develop regional sharing capability…”

What is this “regional sharing” initiative that Mr. Stockton describes?

“Regional sharing” is bureaucratic speak that makes use of a series of loopholes permitting law enforcement, in virtually any jurisdiction throughout the United States, to obtain the information collected by ALPRs specific to the date, time, and geographical location of any particular vehicle.

“Every law enforcement agency has a connection to Nlets,” Stockton told the conference attendees. “Nlets would serve not as a storage unit but as a pointer system, something akin to a Google, so that when you check a plate, Nlets would point you in the direction of where that plate can be found, and the result of that would be a query in one state by an investigator could give an indication of plates of interest in other states, and then that information can be pulled back in of a particular license plate.”

The Nlets network Mr. Stockton is referring to is the Web portal for the International Justice and Public Safety Network, an online, password accessible data base for authorized law enforcement users—an online file accessible to hackers.

Making “buckets” of data collected from the license plates of vehicles parked in supposedly public places or operated on public roadways is something voters, elected officials, and policy makers should openly and honesty debate. This discussion—one with huge privacy implications—can only occur when public officials—those who wish to use tax dollars to purchase the equipment and staff intelligence fusion centers—are straight forward and do not attempt to hoodwink the public and the mainstream media.

When it comes to ALPRs the issues that matter are data access, the security of the numerous data bases involved, and the length of time that the data is stored and/or available for retrieval.

In Minnesota, for example, information obtained by ALPRs is a public record.  Five organizations have filed an open records request for Minnesota’s entire 2.5 million records captured and stored in that state’s ALPR data base.

At least one of these organizations sells data to the public online. In other words, a stalker or anyone else seeking the dates, locations, and times of a particular individual would know the whereabouts of this person’s vehicle if captured by taxpayer funded ALPRs.

In Wisconsin, as the Fox News 6 report notes, an open records request made through a local police agency does reveal when and where a license plate was tagged by an ALPR.

To view a list of the Wisconsin law enforcement agencies making use of ALPRs, visit this link:

Sources claim that the Milwaukee Police Department currently has 15 squad cars outfitted with ALPRs, although none are currently attached to fixed locations within the city limits proper. Smaller police departments, such as Crivitz, Coleman, and Ripon, also have ALPRs, while larger jurisdictions—Madison, Eau Claire, and Waukesha—are in the process of applying for federal grants to cover the $15,000-$17,000 cost of a single ALPR unit.

Make no mistake about it: the annual trillion dollar deficits the federal government’s been racking-up since 2009 won’t stop local law enforcement agencies from applying for their share of ‘free money.’


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. I, is available at

Spingola’s soon-to-be-released book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, is set for release in December 2012.

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

For more information, please visit:

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2012

Reason, Not Demagoguery, Needed on Police Pay Issue

The issue for many outside of law enforcement, including journalists, is difficult to understand; however, when it comes to “pay” for “fired” Milwaukee police officers, the facts are rarely explained well by members of the media, including those in talk-radio.

Officers are fired for a variety of reasons.  In most instances, when a termination proceeding is initiated, an officer is convicted of a crime.  I find this somewhat ironic since a handful of police departments in Wisconsin actually hire applicants with minor criminal convictions (disorderly conduct or first offense OWI, which in most states is a misdemeanor).

Being Wisconsin’s only Class A city—defined by state law as a municipality with a population of over 500,000—many state laws applicable to Milwaukee do not affect other cities, villages or towns.  This is why political leaders out-state often refer to Wisconsin’s only Class A city as ‘the State of Milwaukee.’

The administration of police departments, as well as the disciplinary process involving police officers, is tied to Milwaukee’s Class A designation.  Unfortunately, some in the media—those with a rather noticeable bias against Milwaukee officers—have contorted and twisted the issue to the point that requires a reasoned explanation.  

For whatever reason—one that has never been fully explained—the Milwaukee Police Department’s chief of police is the only leader of a municipal law enforcement agency in Wisconsin that can subjectively and arbitrarily fire a police officer.  In all other municipal jurisdictions, a police chief can simply recommend to their respective police and fire commissions that an officer be terminated.  These commissions then conduct a just cause hearing to affirm the police chief’s recommendation or collectively confer to make their own disciplinary recommendations.  However, police officers from every other municipal jurisdiction receive their pay throughout the hearing process. 

The way the law now stands, police officers in Milwaukee are the ONLY officers in the state that immediately forfeit salary based on the arbitrary and subjective findings of their police chief.

Some left-wing police haters, fiscal conservatives, and country club types, you know the crowd—those that sit on their confortable suburban patios sipping cocktails, while lacking the intestinal fortitude required to patrol Milwaukee’s inner city—could care less.  They argue two points:  that officers are rarely fired without cause and that fired officers can receive back pay if they are reinstated by the Fire and Police Commission. 

Now, imagine you are an officer fired arbitrary and wrongfully by the police chief.  You depend on your salary to pay the mortgage and need a health insurance plan to cover your family, but, because you either did something politically incorrect or work for a particular unit within the department on the outs with the chief of police, you find yourself fired without so much as a just cause hearing.  State leaders, as well as the editorial board at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, apparently believe that law enforcement salaries are so lavish that individual officers should simply set aside $25,000 to $50,000 in case they become political hot potatoes.

And for those who argue that few are rarely disciplined unjustifiably, cases abound of officers being targeted by agents of the police chief.  In Milwaukee, for example, Police Chief Arthur Jones’  Internal Affairs investigators planted a gun in a dumpster on Mitchell Street, instructed a gang member on probation to call officers in the gang unit to tell them the gun was in the dumpster, and then, when the officers recovered the gun with their supervisor’s approval, had tactical enforcement officers whisk the two officers away.  Calls where then made to the Milwaukee County DA’s office in an attempt to have the officers investigated for extortion.  After a deputy DA scoffed, the officers where investigated and later charged with rule violations.  In the interim, they were both transferred for basically doing their jobs.

Once upon a time, another Milwaukee police chief fired a male and a female officer for adulterous conduct that occurred in the privacy of the female officers’ residence.  Read the below link to see the scathing rebuke of the police chief by the Wisconsin Supreme Court:

Now, once a police and fire commission terminates a police officer in any jurisdiction in Wisconsin, pay to the employee immediately ceases.  Since members of these commissions are political appointees of the mayor, officers may appeal their terminations through the courts, but do not receive pay while doing so.  And, over the course of the past three decades, the courts—recognizing that the Fire and Police Commission is sometimes little more than a political dog-and-pony show—have reinstated police officers.

One recent case is that of Detective Phil Sliwinski, fired by Police Chief Arthur Jones.  The City of Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission upheld Jones’ firing, even as they denied Sliwinski the right to call a witness.  A Wisconsin appeals court ordered Sliwinski reinstated and Circuit Court Judge Timothy Dugan ordered the city to fork over $328,321 in back pay, as Sliwinski went unpaid for almost five years during the ensuing court fight.

Unfortunately, what transpires on the seventh floor offices of the Police Administration Building sometimes provides the  fodder for novels like The Cozen Protocol.

For those concerned with due process and rightful discipline—not selling papers or scoring political points—a better state-wide policy is a level the playing field for ALL Wisconsin police officers.  If police chiefs throughout Wisconsin are prohibited from arbitrary and subjectively firing police officers without a just cause hearing, then why can’t Milwaukee’s police chief play by the same rules?


Steve Spingola is a retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. 

If your organization is in need of an outstanding guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, visit

© Steve Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011