MILWAUKEE — One day after a town hall meeting and march and rally were held, calling for justice in the death of 22-year-old Derek Williams, who died while in police custody in July of 2011, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn met with Milwaukee’s Fire and Police Commission to discuss the case (along with the department’s handling of the shooting of 13-year-old Darius Simmons) Thursday, October 4th. At Thursday’s meeting — some called the Milwaukee Police Department racist, and reiterated their request for Chief Flynn’s resignation.
Chief Flynn entered a closed-door meeting with the Fire and Police Commission Thursday night — with the dashcam video showing Williams struggling in the back of a police squad car hanging over his head.
After the meeting, Chief Flynn wouldn’t discuss details, but said: “We live in a democracy. If people feel they have the power and influence to affect my removal, then I just gotta live with that. That’s their opinion.”
In the open meeting that followed, the crowd was expecting a statement on the Simmons’ case. 13-year-old Darius Simmons was shot — allegedly by his 75-year-old neighbor. The Milwaukee Police Department has been under fire for its handling of the case after Simmons’ mother claims she was held in a squad car at the scene for hours, and was not allowed to be with her son after he was shot.
Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn has discussed those allegations, saying officers at the scene followed protocol by isolating and interviewing Simmons’ mother because she was a witness to a homicide.
“We`re obviously going to look at the timeline of that investigation. As a general principle, when somebody`s murdered, our first duty is to bring justice to the victim and that requires us to slow a scene down and get the best, most accurate, immediate account from eyewitnesses. We have one chance at a homicide investigation to get a fresh, uncontaminated, unadulterated statement immediately after the incident, and that is as soon as we get there. I`ll certainly look and see how we conducted ourselves at this time,” Chief Flynn said.
The Fire and Police Commission said the incident has been reviewed, and a final report should be released to the public soon.
Those words set off a crowd already angry about the Williams’ case — including Williams’ great-aunt Maeleen Jordan.
“If you’re going to protect and serve us as people, as human beings, nobody should die like my nephew died,” Jordan said.
Fire and Police Commission Director Mike Tobin spoke out after Thursday night’s meeting.
“A critical incident occurred and sometimes aren’t handled optimally, but that is no reason to malign the efforts of hundreds of officers out there at this very moment doing great work — protecting the same people who are out there expressing their displeasure. The Fire and Police Commission is going to continue to work with Chief Flynn on all of the issues concerning department operations,” Tobin said.
Tobin was asked directly whether he will consider firing Chief Flynn — and did not answer that question Thursday night.
A spokesman for the union representing most police officers in the city stepped forward Thursday and said he and his union stood by Chief Flynn and the way he’s handled recent incidents.
The latest development in the Williams’ case occurred Thursday morning, when several took picket signs to WISN Radio, objecting to talk show host Mark Belling calling Williams “a thug.”
“The language used in the situation was clearly racially disparaging, intending to be harmful and to denigrate. We urge all to reject that language,” NAACP Milwaukee President James Hall said.
The NAACP has proposed establishing a human rights committee to review complaints of civil rights violations. The group also wants a federal investigation into the Williams’ case, and practices of the Milwaukee Police Department.
Those concerns escalated Wednesday night, when community members met with Chief Flynn for a town hall meeting to discuss the Williams’ case.
Last week, an attorney for Williams’ girlfriend said Chief Flynn should lose his job over the Williams’ case. That request was echoed during Wednesday night’s town hall meeting. The group also demanded the badges of the two MPD officers involved in the Williams’ case, and supported the call for a federal investigation.
“Despite what happened here tonight, I want to commend the police department, because some of the things that were said were not easy to take. We informed Chief Flynn that we expect his removal as the chief of police — either by resignation or termination,” Reverend Steve Jerbi with All Peoples Church said.
Flynn said Wednesday night he will not step down — saying his focus is on his department.
“That’s the last thing I’m worried about quite honestly. I’m worried about the positioning of this police department for maximum service, and I’m not at all worried about my career,” Chief Flynn said.
Following the outrage caused by Williams’ death and the dashcam video showing him struggling to breathe in the back of a Milwaukee police squad car, some have said there’s a crisis of confidence for MPD.
“There are some great officers, and there are some great commanders. We don’t paint the department with a broad brush. But there is something terribly wrong when you have body cavity searches and depraved indifference going through our community,” Reverend Jerbi said.
Chief Flynn said he attended the town hall meeting to hear advice for the department moving forward — adding the effectiveness of a police department depends on community trust.
“I recognize our effectiveness depends on the level of community trust and support we have. To the extent that’s been shaken at all in recent weeks — we’ve got to address that,” Chief Flynn said.
Wednesday evening’s town hall meeting came hours after over 100 participated in a march and rally calling for justice and accountability in Williams’ death.
The march and rally were organized by the Campaign Against Violence/WI League of Young Voters.
Family members of Williams, members of the community, activists and faith leaders marched from the Dr. King Statue (1740 N. MLK Drive) to MacArthur Square (841 N. James Lovell Street.
The Milwaukee County District Attorney on Tuesday, October 2nd named a special prosecutor to handle an inquest into Williams’ death.
Earlier this week, FOX6 News learned two MPD officers at the scene when Williams died were also at the scene when at least one suspect was subject to an illegal cavity search by another officer.
An attorney in both the Williams case and the cavity search case is calling for an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“Considering all the issues concerning the department itself and I think, the deterioration of the trust of the department and the chief, it warrants and behooves the Department of Justice to review the department as a whole in regards to whether there has been and continues to be a pattern and practice of civil rights violations that have been continuing and may be continuing to this day,” Attorney Jonathan Safran said.
In an interview with FOX6 News last week, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said his department did make an error in not getting Williams help quickly enough. However, Chief Flynn said Williams’ death was not intentional.
“As tragic as this death was, the individual involved had just been in a foot pursuit, climbed a fence, lost his shirt, stuck on the fence, hidden from the police, been captured by the police, briefly struggled, and handcuffed. Doesn’t mean we don’t take responsibility for not reacting more rapidly to his medical crisis,” Chief Flynn said.
CLICK HERE for additional coverage on the Derek Williams’ case via FOX6Now.com.