Heated exchange between Flynn, newspaper reporter at crime numbers meeting

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn was forced on Wednesday, June 13th to address another Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigative report on crime statistics in the city. During that discussion Wednesday afternoon, there was a heated exchange between Chief Flynn and Journal Sentinel reporter Bill Glauber.

The latest Journal Sentinel story says its reporters found hundreds of misreported aggravated assaults. In fact, the paper says in 2011, violent crime in Milwaukee actually went up over a percent — instead of going down over two percent, compared to 2010.

Chief Flynn admits the department has found mistakes that go as far back as 2006, but he argued there’s no way to know a trend for that year.

The Journal Sentinel also reported that the Milwaukee Police Department is forcing them to pay $10,000 for access to 800 crime reports – which are public records.

Bill Glauber: “When are you going to make the reports available and stop hiding behind $10,000 charges?”

Chief Flynn: “Oh, gosh.  Well when are you going to give us your notes? Guess what?  When it costs thousands of dollars to feed you, we don’t think your allegedly for-profit enterprise should get that stuff for free.”

Glauber: “So you don’t want to answer questions?”

Chief Flynn: “I answered it. You heard it. Sorry you don’t like it.”

The exchange revealed the simmering tension between two of the city’s most important institutions.

George Stanley is the Journal Sentinel’s managing editor and spoke with FOX6 News Wednesday.

“If we can’t pay $10,000 for them, who in the general public could get them?  These are the public’s records. The public owns them,” Stanley said.

Chief Flynn said he isn’t arguing with the findings of the Journal Sentinel’s investigation, but rather, the presentation. He says the paper’s report lacks context.

“I sat down at this table with that reporter and his editor, and I asked them three very simple questions: when you’re trying to compare the error rate of 2011, how does it compare to years before I got here, as well as other years since I’ve been here?  We don’t know. OK.  How does our reporting error rate compare to other cities of half a million with similar crime and poverty rates? We don’t know.  How does the error rate compare with other Tiberon users of our size?  We don’t know.  So apparently the universe is one and the standard is perfection,” Chief Flynn said.

Chief Flynn said himself Wednesday that the software MPD uses for crime reporting is “a very cumbersome system.” An MPD sergeant walked reporters through the process Wednesday.

Chief Flynn said multiple drop-down menus have complicated data-entry and staff members have been retrained, and training will continue.

Chief Flynn said the paper is trying to discredit his department – a charge the paper denies.

“We have one agenda, and that’s trying to find out where the truth is,” Stanley said.

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