MILWAUKEE -- A majority of the Milwaukee Common Council has asked United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions for an update on the status of the initial report from the Department of Justice's Collaborative Reform assessment with the Milwaukee Police Department.
In the letter, the Council members ask Attorney General Sessions for assistance in making public the report containing initial findings from the Department of Justice’s Collaborative Reform assessment, which was launched in December 2015. The Council members said they were under the impression the report would be released in January of 2017. They're still waiting, and wondering how much longer it'll take.
The letter, sent on Tuesday, February 28th, reads in part:
"According to the DOJ, the goal of Collaborative Reform with the Milwaukee Police Department is to assess, monitor, and assist the MPD, in concert with the community, in the implementation and sustainment of reforms that improve community-oriented policing practices, transparency, professionalism, accountability, and public trust, taking into account national standards, best practices, current and emerging research, and community expectations.
Following the assessment, the COPS Office is to issue a public initial report detailing the findings of the assessment, along with specific recommendations for improvement. We expected the report and findings to be issued in January 2017, and now we are fast approaching March 1.
We respectfully ask that you use your authority to either release this report to the public immediately or that you provide a date certain on which it will be released. Public safety and policing in our city is paramount in importance for our citizens, and for us as elected Common Council members who are sworn to protect the health, safety and welfare of our citizens."
The letter is signed by the following Common Council members:
- Ashanti Hamilton (Common Council President)
- Bob Donovan
- Jose Perez
- Cavalier Johnson
- James Bohl
- Milele Coggs
- Khalif Rainey
- Chantia Lewis
- Michael Murphy
- Mark Borkowski
- Tony Zielinski
- Russell Stamper, II
- Nik Kovac
- Robert Bauman
Ald. Terry Witkowski is the only alderman to not sign off on the letter. He says did not sign it because the staffers who approached him were unable to answer his questions about what, exactly, the council would be requesting.
In January of 2016, DOJ officials from Washington listened during a public forum in Milwaukee. It was one of the first steps in the Collaborative Reform study of MPD. In November of 2015, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn explained why he asked for the federal review.
"I do this in recognition of the inevitable fact that there are many in this community that still question this department's commitment to reform," Chief Flynn said.
"People committed a lot of time over this last year with the hopes of getting some suggestions for improvement," Alderwoman Milele Coggs said.
Alderwoman Coggs led the push to draft the letter to Attorney General Sessions. The letter asks that the DOJ either release the report immediately, or provide a date on which it will be released.
"For the sake of us as policymakers who may use the improvements suggested within that report to help guide choices we have to make," Coggs said.
The report will evaluate the police department in a number of areas, including community relations, use-of-force history, and record of officer discipline.
Coggs said the report is extremely important given the rioting in August after the officer-involved shooting of Sylville Smith and the ACLU this month filing a lawsuit against MPD over alleged racial profiling.
"Now is as good a time as any," Coggs said.
Coggs said Tuesday, February 28th she has not directly contacted the feds but she insisted this letter wasn't just for show.
"We would not be doing our jobs if we did not request those results," Coggs said.
FOX6 News reached out to the Department of Justice Tuesday. Spokeswoman Mary Brandenberg would only say the agency is in the process of finalizing the report. Milwaukee Police declined to comment for this story.