Sounding Like a Candidate, Clarke Asks, Where’s the Plan for Milwaukee?

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Category: Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Schools, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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He said hardly anything about running the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department or the controversies he is involved in within county government. The policy area he talked about the most was education. And he spoke a lot about the Milwaukee of his childhood and the Milwaukee of the future.

No, David A. Clarke Jr. is not a stick-to-my-own-business law enforcement agency head. Milwaukee’s sheriff since 2002 didn’t say he was going to run for mayor during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program Thursday at Eckstein Hall, but he sure sounded like a candidate.

“What’s the vision for the city of Milwaukee?” Clarke asked, faulting Mayor Tom Barrett for not putting one forth. “What’s the plan” for getting better student outcomes from Milwaukee Public Schools? A $1.2 billion a year operation ought to get better results, no matter how many problems kids have due to their lives outside of school, he said. “I think they’re mass producing illiteracy,” he said. Read more »

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Violence in the Heartland, Part IV–The Biggest Losers (and Gainers)

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Milwaukee, Public
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Among the eleven biggest Midwestern cities, Chicago has experienced the largest drop in homicide rates over the past quarter-century, while Cincinnati has experienced the largest increase.  The other nine cities are scattered between the biggest loser and the biggest gainer, reflecting a range of markedly different urban experiences with lethal violence since the mid-1980s.

This rather messy graph indicates the annual number of homicides (murder and other nonnegligent manslaughter) per 100,000 residents for each of the eleven Midwestern jurisdictions with a population of more than 250,000:

homicides by 11 cities

Other than Detroit’s position as the region’s perennial homicide champ, it is hard to discern any patterns in the mass of lines.

The following table provides a clearer picture of each city’s trajectory.  Read more »

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Impact of Reductions in Poverty-Fighting Increasingly Affecting Policing, Flynn Says

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Milwaukee, Poverty & Law, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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“Think big, folks,” Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn urged a full-house audience in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall on Tuesday. And Flynn did that himself during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program, taking a broad view of the role of police in protecting and enhancing the quality of life of people and communities in the city.

Flynn’s perspective focused frequently on how police have become the ones dealing with a gamut of social problems, as well as criminal problems, as public investment in programs aimed at helping people, especially those in poverty, have declined across the United States.

Over the last 25 years, Flynn said, “we have seen a consistent and unrelenting disinvestment in the social network, OK?” He gave mental health as an example: “Right now, the response of our society to issues of mental health is the criminal justice system. I’ve seen this for years and it’s becoming more so. . . . If you have a mental health problem, we can guarantee you a jail cell.” He said substance abuse problems are another example. “What is our social network dealing with substance abuse? Jail.”

Flynn, who is in his sixth year as Milwaukee’s police chief, said, “I’ve got 1,800 men and women out there who are being asked to deal with virtually every single social problem that presents as an inconvenience, discomfort or issue. . . . It is this one group that right now has the weight of every single social problem on it. And maybe we should start asking ourselves, do we need to double back and see what else we’re doing?” Read more »

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Norquist Lets Zingers Fly in Eckstein Hall Program

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Category: Milwaukee, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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“I wish you wouldn’t hold back,” Mike Gousha told former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist at the end of an hour-long “On the Issues” conversation at Eckstein Hall on Feb. 5. That got a big laugh from the audience of about 200 because Norquist held back little in giving zinger-filled opinions on a range of subjects.

In nearly four terms as mayor, from 1988 through 2003, Norquist was known for speaking his mind. If anything, he is even more willing to speak out now that he’s a decade removed from that office. A few examples from his session with Gousha, the Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy:

On Waukesha’s request to get access to Lake Michigan for its water supply: Given the way some Waukesha officials have treated issues of importance to the City of Milwaukee, Norquist said, “If I were one of the elected officials, I’d be tempted to say, ‘you want our water, that’s too bad, you can dry up and blow away.’ ” Read more »

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The Fragility of Strads

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266x180xlipinski-strad-300x204_jpg_pagespeed_ic_-vowBH2CskBravo to the Milwaukee Police Department and everybody who cooperated to ensure the safe return of the Lipinski Stradivarius! What an impressive feat.  The recovery of the violin ends several days of anxious speculation about the violin’s fate. Was it still in Milwaukee, as former FBI officer Robert Wittman (founder of the FBI’s National Art Crime Team) believed? Or in a vault of an extremely wealthy and unscrupulous person in a remote country, perhaps side by side with the missing Vermeer painting “The Concert”? Did these robbers know what they were doing or were they a group of blundering amateurs—and which of the two would be more favorable? Read more »

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Why Orchestras Matter

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Category: Milwaukee, Public
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MSOWhen orchestras hit the headlines, the news is rarely good. The latest example is the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO), which announced in December that it must raise $5 million just to complete the season. Although management and the musicians have cooperated to come up with substantial cost savings, the orchestra’s survival has become highly uncertain.

But why should you care? More to the point, why should a community support an institution that cannot finance its operations out of ticket sales?

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Violence in the Heartland, Part III: City Trends

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Legal History, Milwaukee, Public, Wisconsin Criminal Law & Process
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In earlier posts (here and here), I have explored state-level violence trends since 1960 in the seven midwestern states of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  This post focuses on the data from the largest city of each of these states.  Since Chicago does not report its rape numbers in conformity with FBI standards, it is omitted from the analysis.

Here are the city trends since 1985 (reported violent crimes per 100,000 residents):

city data

What stands out most is the very wide, persistent gap between Detroit at the top of the chart and Des Moines at the bottom.   Read more »

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Polarization or Social Control in Metropolitan Milwaukee?

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Category: Milwaukee, Public, Race & Law
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As a person who has always considered the City of Milwaukee to be home, I find Craig Gilbert’s ongoing study of political polarization in the metropolitan area to be both thorough and illuminating. His research indicates that when it comes to Republican and Democratic voting patterns, the area has become more polarized than any area outside of the American South. What’s more, the political polarization very strikingly correlates with race, ethnicity, education, and population density. Republican voters reside largely in middle and upper-class suburbs in Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee counties, while the impoverished and working poor reside and vote in the City of Milwaukee’s Democratic inner-city.

When we reflect on what has come to be, it is important that we not take the polarization to be simply a naturally occurring phenomenon and thereby overlook the political agency involved, that is, the way some socio-economic groups attempt to contain and control other socio-economic groups. Polarization has taken place in part because local and state governments have used law and legal arrangements to push socio-economic groups apart, to assign poorer citizens to certain areas, and to reduce the clout of these citizens at the polls. Read more »

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Wisconsin and the Repeal of Prohibition

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Category: Constitutional Law, Legal History, Milwaukee, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Wisconsin Law & Legal System
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prohibition_ends_at_lastThis past December 5 marked the 80th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition, America’s experiment in the creation of an alcohol-free society.

Prohibition officially ended in 1933 with the ratification of the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution. The new Amendment repealed the earlier 18th Amendment, which had made the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages illegal in the United States.

The repeal of Prohibition is an event that has been celebrated daily in Wisconsin for the past eight decades.

Somewhat remarkably, Wisconsin, long associated with the production of alcoholic spirits, did actually vote for Prohibition. On January 17, 1919, in the wake of intense anti-German sentiment throughout the United States and in the aftermath of World War I, in which the U.S. government had used its war powers to sharply curtail the production of alcoholic beverages, the Wisconsin legislature approved the 18th Amendment by a majority vote. However, in “defense” of the legislature, Wisconsin’s approval did not come until after the Prohibition Amendment had already been ratified by the requisite number of states to bring it into law. Read more »

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Lewd and Lascivious Behavior Laws: A Milwaukee Story

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Category: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law & Process, Milwaukee, Public, Wisconsin Criminal Law & Process, Wisconsin Law & Legal System
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The Accused

Lee Erickson’s bio attests to his national prominence. Among other things, he served on the Choral Panel of the National Endowment of the Arts and as dean of the American Guild of Organists. But in Milwaukee, he is best known as the conductor of the chorus of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO). Erickson was appointed associate director of the MSO Chorus in 1978, and he has served as the chorus’s director since 1994. By all accounts, the group has flourished under his leadership. The MSO website quotes music director Edo de Waart as saying: “The MSO has the good fortune of having a first-class volunteer chorus. With a chorus of this caliber, the options for performing great works in the repertoire are immense.” Frequent guest conductor Nicholas McGegan has called the chorus “a real gem,” and Tom Strini of the ThirdCoast Digest referred to it as “the jewel in Milwaukee’s cultural crown.”

If you type Erickson’s name into the Google search box, however, these achievements aren’t among the first results that appear on your screen.

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Nationally, Police Get Good Marks From Citizens; Locally, We’ll Soon Find Out

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Milwaukee, Public, Race & Law
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Police_vehicle_from_Manchester_(New_Hampshire)_02Last week, the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission announced that it would conduct its first survey of citizen satisfaction with the police.  The results should provide us with helpful new ways to evaluate the Milwaukee Police Department’s performance and identify areas in need of improvement.

Unfortunately, media coverage provides a very distorted picture of police-citizen interactions.  What makes the news, of course, are the incidents in which officers become violent or exhibit extreme callousness.  When video is available of such incidents, as is increasingly common, the disturbing images may be repeated endlessly on TV or circulate virally on social media.  Viewers may be left with the impression that such incidents are the norm.  However, the vast majority of police-citizen interactions occur without anything newsworthy happening.  Among other things, the Fire and Police Commission’s new survey should give us a much better sense of what happens in the more routine interactions and how those interactions affect public perceptions of the police.

Although data of this sort have not been available for Milwaukee specifically, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics did sponsor a national survey in 2011 regarding police-citizens interactions.  The results, released in two reports earlier this fall, indicate a remarkably high level of citizen satisfaction, even among the minority groups who seem to bear the brunt of the high-profile incidents of police misconduct.   Read more »

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Alternatives to Incarceration: The Importance of Local Collaboration and Leadership

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Milwaukee, Public, Wisconsin Criminal Law & Process
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Last week, the Audit Services Division of the Milwaukee County Office of the Comptroller released a helpful new report, “Electronic Monitoring can Achieve Substantive Savings for Milwaukee County, but Only if Pursued on a Large Scale with Satisfactory Compliance.”  Although the voluminous report particularly focuses on electronic monitoring, it also provides a wealth of background information about the recent history of our local jail, House of Correction, and alternatives to incarceration.  The report documents a rich array of new or recently reinvigorated programs that are intended to divert defendants from the jail or House of Correction, either at the pretrial stage or post-adjudication.  The report also notes widespread support for these initiatives among nearly all major stakeholders in the County’s criminal justice system, with the most significant exception being Sheriff David Clarke.

Media coverage centered on the report’s finding that home detention and electronic monitoring of larger numbers of offenders might save the County more than $2.5 million in costs at the House of Correction.  The Office of the Sheriff responded to this finding in a characteristically derisive fashion, particularly criticizing the House’s current leadership for placing drunk drivers on electronic monitoring.

Although the war of words among County officials makes good copy, I think the real story in the report is the extensive and innovative collaboration that has been occurring for the past half-dozen years between court officials, elected leaders, prosecutors, public defenders, and various other stakeholders in order to address Milwaukee’s chronic jail overcrowding and to develop cost-effective alternatives to incarceration.   Read more »

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