the Fire and Police Commission giving
July 13, 2002 -- Which member of Milwaukee’s police department had more complaints before the Fire and Police Commission between Jan. 1, 2000 and Dec. 31, 2001 than any other?
No doubt about it: Chief of Police Arthur Jones.
Records obtained by MilwaukeePress.Net from the commission show that nine complaints name Jones, four of them alleging misconduct in office. Of the nine, two are “on hold,” four were dismissed for not being rule violations, one because the complainant was not “an aggrieved party,” and one was dismissed after the Commission referred it to the police department for an investigation.
MilwaukeePress.Net sought records from the Commission of department employees with three or more citizen complaints filed against them between Jan. 1 2000 and Dec. 31, 2001. In response, Executive Director Joseph Czarnezki released the names of six department employees: four officers had three complaints against them, one had five complaints and Jones had nine.
MilwaukeePress.Net made the record request about a year ago, but the Commission dragged its feet in response. MilwaukeePress.Net renewed its request and changed the dates of records it sought to accommodate the Commission, but even so the material obtained is only partial. The request was made after a police officer who had been accused in complaints numerous times but not disciplined was finally arrested and sent to prison for attempting to deal leniency on a citation for sex. Our purpose was to look for a pattern in any officer’s behavior that might be an early warning of trouble to come.
But the records are not a clear picture of what the complaints entail.
For one thing, Czarnezki said he would not offer complete access to the records.
“It is my belief that dissemination of unsubstantiated specific allegations contained in specific complaints against specific individuals would be likely to have a substantial adverse effect upon the reputations of the complainant or department members who were involved in the underlying incident,” Czarnezki tells us. “Absent a full public hearing where all parties would have an opportunity to be heard, I feel that the risk of such harm outweighs any presumption of access to such records. I would therefore respectfully deny further access to the complaints themselves and the contents of any complaint file which has not had the benefit of such a hearing.”
However, Czarnezki said his office would arrange a meeting with the City Attorney’s office and MilwaukeePress.Net to reconsider the decision, considering the Commission notified every police officer of its intent to release information, and none objected.
Among those named:
Johnny Santiago had five complaints against him – four of them arising from one June 19, 2001 incident in which excessive force and discourteousness were alleged (all were dismissed); an complaint filed May 30, 2001, made the same allegations and was also dismissed.
Jeanette Roycraft allegedly used excessive force in two complaints filed Nov. 27, 2000, while a third complaint was determined to not be a violation of department rules. All were dismissed.
Darrell Flemming was named in a Dec. 4, 2000 case alleging he was discourteous. On July 13, 2000 he was named in a misconduct complaint and May 7, 2000. Both complaints were dismissed. On May 7, 2001 a pending excessive force and discourteousness complaint was filed against Flemming.
Richard Gordy was named in three complaints: one on Jan. 4, 2000, for being discourteous, which was dismissed for lack or prosecutorial merit; one filed Oct. 12, 2000, alleging general misconduct, which was dismissed after the Commission referred it to the police department, which found no misconduct; and a Dec. 5, 2000 complaint for being discourteous, which was dismissed.
Czarnezki says the two complaints against Jones are on hold because “the policy of the Commission is that anytime there is litigation they are put on hold because it could be hard to get witnesses to testify when their testimony could be used in a pending lawsuit.”
He says Police Officers Rod Gustafson and Javier Cornejo, who had sued Jones and former Chief Philip Arreola, brought the two pending complaints. A federal jury awarded the officers $190,000 each in January 2000.
The officers filed a second lawsuit in 2000, alleging that Jones and other officials were still punishing them for filing the first federal lawsuit, and it alleges that their fellow officers have been ordered to plant drugs and paraphernalia in Gustafson's squad car.
Asked whether the Commission should put a complaint on the back burner in a matter in which allegations were made that department employees were planting drugs in patrol cars, Czarnezki says, “that’s the policy of the Board.”