MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn offered FOX6 News a one-on-one interview Wednesday, October 10th — amidst growing controversy for his department. Also Wednesday, officials announced the beginning of a federal civil rights investigation into the in-custody death of Derek Williams. This, one day after four MPD officers were charged for alleged illegal strip and body cavity searches.
Many in the community have been pressing for a federal investigation since dashcam video was released showing Williams struggling to breathe in the backseat of an MPD squad car after he was picked up for an alleged attempted robbery. However, Chief Flynn was not among them.
“I felt this case had been reviewed at four levels already and I did not perceive that anything new would come,” Chief Flynn told FOX6 News Wednesday.
Nevertheless, Chief Flynn promised to cooperate with the new investigation. This federal investigation is separate from an already announced inquest into Williams’ death. A special prosecutor has been selected to handle that investigation.
FOX6 News asked Chief Flynn when he first saw the Williams’ dashcam video that sparked so much outraged.
Chief Flynn: “I looked at the tape about a week ago, I guess.”
FOX6’s Anne State: “Was that the first time you saw it?”
Chief Flynn: “Yeah.”
Anne State: “Why didn’t you look at it sooner — if somebody died in police custody?”
Chief Flynn: “Well here’s the understanding. By the time this case was brought to the police department for investigation, the Medical Examiner had issued a ruling. The Medical Examiner’s ruling was the man died of natural causes. That was the ruling. He’d done an investigation and an autopsy.”
Chief Flynn also pointed out that the District Attorney had cleared his officers of wrongdoing at the time. However, Chief Flynn now says his officers erred by not recognizing that Williams was having a medical crisis.
FOX6 News asked Chief Flynn — if someone in custody is asking for medical help, shouldn’t they get it?
Chief Flynn answered by saying it’s common for suspects to make complaints, especially after a chase.
“Now there is not an officer in this department that has not had an arrestee in the back seat complain of discomfort, or hyperventilation or some other such thing,” Chief Flynn said.
Chief Flynn also pointed out that the two officers later did chest compressions on Williams in a futile attempt to save his life.
Chief Flynn drew a sharp contrast between the Williams’ case and the four officers charged with allegedly performing illegal strip searches. He called the searches a case of “willful misconduct, and he strongly denied allegations made by the Milwaukee Police Association President, Mike Crivello, that the officers were basically under pressure to make a certain number of arrests.
“I absolutely reject, categorically reject that there’s any kind of quota. It’s total poppycock and he knows differently,” Chief Flynn said.
In the past, Chief Flynn has said police need the community’s trust in order to be effective. FOX6 News asked Chief Flynn — given what’s transpired, has the community’s trust been broken, and would Chief Flynn ever consider resigning?
Flynn answered “no” to both questions. He said murders and civilian complaints have gone down in the last four years. He says that could not have happened without the community’s trust.
CLICK HERE for additional coverage on the Derek Williams’ investigation via FOX6Now.com.
CLICK HERE for additional coverage of the investigation into the alleged body cavity and strip searches, and the four MPD officers charged via FOX6Now.com.