Why are Milwaukee’s Black elected officials hiding?

Mayor Tom Barrett’s police body camera plan lacks accountability; only one alderman has said anything

By Chris Johnson and Robert Miranda, KINGFISHmke

September 8, 2015

Last week, just days after Mayor Tom Barrett’s announcement of allocating one million dollars in the city’s upcoming budget for body cameras for the Milwaukee Police Department, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MJS) published an  article in which is stated that the Mayor’s police body camera initiative allowed police officers the “discretion” to turn off the cameras for “certain sensitive calls.”

Many concerns and questions arose among Milwaukee’s Black activists after this announcement, some questioning the rationale of allowing police officers to turn off the cameras at will. While some individuals spoke in support of the Mayor’s plan, many others have reservations.

Of key concern is the issue of what is defined as sensitive moments?  

Are law enforcement officers to use discretion to shut off the camera when engaging in matters like domestic violence and witness identity protection?  

There are many who are in complete outrage at the mayor’s plan to allow Milwaukee police to shut off the body cameras. Many of them stat ed that, if the police officers can turn off the cameras with “discretion,” the idea of the body cameras are a waste of time and money.

In addition to the aforementioned concerns, other questions like “what are ‘sensitive calls’”? “Who determines what a ‘sensitive call’ is”? And will police officers be required to get permission before they turn off the cameras, are being asked around the community.

One intriguing question we thought merited to be asked is, if the police officer determines that he is responding to a “sensitive call” and turns off his body camera, can citizens request that the camera be turned back on for their own protection when they are engaging with police?

The concern of what measures are in place to prevent police officers from turning off the body cameras to cover up unprofessional behavior and crimes against citizens has not been addressed, but was discussed in an http://fox6now.com/2015/09/03/questions-concerns-over-body-cameras-for-mpd-addressed-during-meeting-of-fire-police-commission/ articleafter the most recent Fire and Police Commission (FP&C) in which Nate Hamilton, the brother of unarmed Dontre Hamilton, who was shot multiple times and killed by a former Milwaukee police officer in April 2014, summed up what many believe to be true: “Body camera discretion is stupid.”

This leads us to the question at hand, why are Milwaukee’s Black elected officials hiding? In this vitally important discussion about police body cameras there has been no communication from any of the Black elected officials in the Common Council, the very body that has to approve the body camera budget, except one. Ald. Joe Davis.

The silence, that is clearly evident after several days since the mayor’s decree, continues despite the fact that the most affected population of police abuse is the Black population in Milwaukee. Why?

Alderman Davis put out a press release after the FP&C meeting, raising the issue of police officers having “discretion” to turn off body cameras as defeating the most effective benefit of the police body camera initiative, that being of building the trust between communities of color, in particular Blacks and Hispanics, and the Milwaukee Police Department.

None of the other Black alderman has said a word. What kind of representative government do Black people in Milwaukee have when we have Black representatives staying silent in a very important matter such as this? 

Has local governance simply become a popularity contest based on name recognition, nice attire and likability?

Are we to accept the idea that we have no real genuine representation at City Hall?  Are these elected representatives there to look flashy in order to receive a decent salary that they would most likely not be able to attain outside of the halls of municipal government?

The fact that no one other than Alderman Davis has said a word about how being able to turn off the cameras defeats the entire purpose of having them. Not Ashanti Hamilton, Milele Coggs, Willie Wade or Russell Stamper, Jr. For the record, neither did any of the Hispanic alderpersons, Jose Perez or Robert Puente.

So why are they hiding?

After approving taxpayer dollars for high budget projects like the $100+ million three-mile-long downtown street car, which does not guarantee jobs in any of the Black alderpersons’ districts and has no plans of reaching those communities to connect those constituents with jobs; after approving hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars for the lakefront and downtown real estate development projects where very few Blacks and Hispanics live or work; after an expected upcoming approval of $47 million of taxpayers dollars for the New York billionaire Bucks owners stadium, once again with no guarantees of job creation in their constituents communities, our Black alderpersons appear to be distracted or compromised.

Their silence makes it abundantly clear who these alderpersons are representing, and it is not their constituents!

This is why they are hiding: they do not want their constituents to find out what they are doing, or better yet, what they are not doing.

If these alderpersons continue to hide and say nothing about police officers being able to turn off body cameras at their “discretion,” it will be just another reminder of how these elected officials are not representing their constituents. And maybe these elected officials need to be reminded of who they are supposed to be advocating for this coming April when it is time for spring elections.

Several of those alderpersons already have opponents who have filed the necessary paperwork declaring their interest to run for office,  some of whom are formidable and could prove to be quite challenging. More to come on that later, click here for the list of candidates who have filed thus far. We will keep you updated.

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster.   Page last modified on September 08, 2015

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