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Milwaukee Alliance confronts MPD during public listening session on “Community Policing"

By Alan Chavoya |
July 30, 2022
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Mlwaukee, WI – On Saturday, July 23, members of the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression attended the first of 15 community engagement sessions designed to gather community input about the recently launched “Community Oriented Policing” initiative. The Milwaukee Police Department, in partnership with the Community Collaborative Commission (CCC), the Fire and Police Commission (FPC), and the Mayers Strategic Solutions, LLC has launched this new initiative to, as they claim, “reimagine public safety together.”

Nearly 40 people attended this first session, but only two attendees (besides the members of the Milwaukee Alliance) weren’t police officers, politicians or property managers. It’s quite obvious that the organizing parties didn’t prioritize working-class and oppressed nationality community members when promoting this first session. How can there be community input when the community members being harassed and abused by the police aren’t present at the meetings? What is the point of these meetings if the majority of the attendees are the initiative organizers and the police? These were the kinds of questions that the Milwaukee Alliance immediately raised.

Besides the meeting’s abysmal composition, it suffered from poor facilitation. Participants were asked to use in order to respond to a series of questions about community safety. Responses would appear live on the meeting room’s screens as respondents answered. However, the software crashed after the third question. As the facilitators scrambled to fix it, one of the attendees pointed out the absurdity of the meeting not including many community members.

Omar Flores, co-chair of the Milwaukee Alliance, used this opportunity to express unity with that statement and to emphasize that MPD, the CCC and the FPC have all heard what the community demands, which they continuously ignore. Flores explained how the Milwaukee Alliance’s canvassing efforts reveal that the people of Milwaukee want “less police funding in order to improve funding for parks, roads, clean water, and good union jobs, police transparency, and police accountability.”

At face value, initiatives of community policing may be appealing, but like other limited reforms, they fail to get at the issue of police violence. The issues with policing aren’t about police officers’ biases or their lack of cultural competency. These are issues of power, which is why the Milwaukee Alliance continues to push for community control of the police. It is the people's right to determine who polices them, how they are policed, and how much funding the police get. Community control of the police through a Civilian Police Accountability Council guarantees that people determine what policing looks like in their communities. Initiatives like “community oriented policing,” on the other hand, fail to even guarantee community input into the policing process, as revealed by this first community engagement session.