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“Status quo cannot continue:” Lawmaker suggests more officers from low-income neighborhoods

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MILWAUKEE -- In the wake of the unrest in Milwaukee's Sherman Park neighborhood on the heels of the fatal officer-involved shooting of 23-year-old Sylville Smith near 44th and Auer, a state lawmaker is calling for changes to the makeup of the Milwaukee Police Department. His proposal would include hiring more officers from certain zip codes.

Rep. Leon Young wants to see MPD be more representative of the people it polices -- calling for 40% of new MPD hires to come from low-income zip codes.

Clashes in the community between police and the people is a reoccurring issue that came to a head after the shooting of Sylville Smith. Two days of unrest in the Sherman Park neighborhood has city and state leaders looking for solutions.

Fire burns at gas station near Sherman & Auer in Milwaukee

Fire burns at gas station near Sherman & Auer in Milwaukee

Unrest near Sherman & Auer in Milwaukee

Unrest near Sherman & Auer in Milwaukee

What remains after unrest near Sherman & Auer in Milwaukee

What remains after unrest near Sherman & Auer in Milwaukee

"The status quo cannot continue on," Rep. Young said.

Rep. Leon Young

Rep. Leon Young

Rep. Young believes he has an answer. He addressed issues during a panel discussion Wednesday, August 24th.

"If you hire more people, African-Americans from the community, they have a better relationship than somebody who is coming from the outside," Rep. Young said.

Young said he will be proposing legislation that would require 40% of all new MPD officer hires to come from low-income zip codes.

MPD officers

"Maybe they can do a better job of communicating with a suspect and maybe not resort to deadly force," Rep. Young said.

Alderman Bob Donovan is the chair of the Milwaukee Common Council's Public Safety Committee. He helped draft a "Public Safety Action Plan" unveiled Tuesday that calls for the hiring of 280 new officers. Donovan said this of Young's proposal:

MPD officers

Alderman Bob Donovan

Alderman Bob Donovan

"I certainly don't oppose it at all. I would ask Leon if he has qualified candidates to offer to the Milwaukee Police Department. I think they would welcome them with open arms," Young said.

Donovan said a zip code alone doesn't qualify someone to be an officer.

"I would hope that our police department hires people by the content of their character and nothing else," Donovan said.

Young's proposal is in the early stages, and hasn't yet been introduced.

MPD officers

Donovan said he sees its passage as an uphill battle.


  • Baffled

    How ironic that the police officer that shot the armed delinquent was black and from the hood and yet the blacks rioted. So how is hiring more from the hood going to change anything?

  • Mike Johnson

    well thats the dumbest thing ever. no different than a welfare check… good luck tho even when you give the thugs a good job they screw it up. as the owner of a small business ive hired prior felons and guess what they are all the same. lazy as can be dont show up for work and dont care

  • Clavius

    This is just an anti white agenda that will make things worse for all citizens. The people make the community. Ghettos don’t create thugs, thugs create ghettos. The last thing Milwaukee needs is a bunch of under qualified thugs becoming crooked cops. It is never a good idea to hire people based on their ethnicity… discrimination works both ways and the police departments should choose the most qualified best candidates for the job.
    Somebody should tell Leon Young that the cop who shot Smith was an “African American” from the same zip code and even high school…Young isn’t very bright if he thinks he can use that incident to push his racist left wing agenda.

  • pmelaschmeling

    from the looks of the videos I saw, the people in those zip codes don’t want to work, they want to get stuff for free. If they wanted to work, they would not have been out burning down buildings of potential employers and stealing stuff. You can lead the horse to water, but you can’t make it drink!!!!

  • confused

    How would 40% pass a background check? A psyc test? A fitness test? Will they completed the 40 credits of college? All of which are required by most police depts. You honestly think just because they are low income the low income people will just open up and start snitching? I think it would make the cop more of a target to his former homies.

  • Honky

    Yes, than the police will be more crooked than ever. Have criminals on both sides. Thats the best idea ever.

  • Don Keedix

    A guy with a gun gets shot by the police and Leon Young wants the police department to change How about having the people that commit crime in these neighborhoods change.

  • Frank B

    Wow. What a knee jerk uneducated response. Hire the people who are qualified to fill the position. Don’t even think of lowering the standards so that people who live in a certain zip code but don’t have the qualifications are allowed to get these jobs. The jobs are available for any qualified candidate no matter where they come from. No more free hand outs and quotas. That thinking is why we are in this mess to begin with! People need to be held accountable for their actions!!!

  • Jim

    This guy is the problem in Milw. Guys like him & the mayor keep getting elected over & over again.

    They rioted cause a black cop from the hood shot a black criminal in the hood but more cops from the hood will fix it. Just looking for more excuses to riot for more free stuff and then get free food.

  • Opinion8d

    They already bend over backwards to hire minorities. Many have records that would exclude a white applicant. Any targeted hiring is simply discriminatory! The thought that black officers, or black officers from the same zip code would help is absolute ignorance, and sadly cheered on by many of color!! Lady Justice is blindfolded for a reason!

  • grunt

    Leon Young is clearly a racist.
    He fits in fine with Gwen Moore, Lena Taylor, Khalif Raiey, Mandella Barnes…….

  • JaneDoeSpeaks

    There is crime near cop shops filled with police so more police is just part of the answer.
    Its the contest that has been going on since the 60s riot of cops and DA v the poor. That is no one wins situation. Everyone needs to rethink it, not just a few or one side. I was raised in Sherman Park during the riots and grew up there. I get the contest. In order to survive where I lived there wasn’t one single word I could afford to listen to from the cop shop or DA. That became the seeds of the recent violent. We don’t want to listen to each other out of fear of the unwritten rules. Can a Milwaukee cop befriend a felon? Would you see a poor schlep from Sherman Park having lunch with the DA? Don’t ask don’t tell spreads out and impacts farther than we think.

    This decades of the contest led to the dumbest thing I ever heard someone from the DA say, they had to indict because they had a signed statement. We have to stop giving those folks the rules to act without thinking because that is what criminals do. The point being that thinking before we act to stop putting the contest as the priority is part of the answer. Keeping news clippings on the wall as a scoreboard of fake victories to convict without thinking is just like the felons wanting their scoreboard.

    Sherman Park is a place mere survival takes all one has. The rules are so simply you roll on mine, I roll on yours. I get why that is because there isn’t enough to go around, not even of the basics like food. That Sherman Park pride has meant we don’t take meals from cops unless its with the banner to get that meal in jail. I get where the pain that drove that pride thing came from when they took it all from us after the 60s riots. We wanted jobs and they built us prisons instead. Got to let it go and find the peace, pardon the past to move on.

  • Observations99

    If there are qualified candidates, they are welcome to apply, but the standards and background checks can not be lowered. If you want to know why, research the Miami River Cops. In the 1980s, Miami had lowered it’s hiring standards….. it was a disaster.

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