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Milwaukee residents, local politicians gather for transparency and accountability community forum

By Aurelia Ceja

Brian Verdin, the education chair of MAARPR, speaking to the room. | Fight Back! News/Omar Flores

Milwaukee, WI – On Friday, January 26, the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (MAARPR) hosted a community forum on transparency and accountability at the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 hall.

50 community members attended presentations from MAARPR on various policies related to footage release from law enforcement, which was followed by a question and answer session with County Supervisors Wilie Johnson, Ryan Clancy, and Juan Miguel Martinez regarding the lack of a footage release policy from the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO).

The forum was held ahead of a Judiciary, Law Enforcement and General Services committee meeting. At that meeting, Supervisor Clancy will present a resolution encouraging the MCSO to adopt a footage release policy similar to the city’s SOP 575 – requiring the release of footage of police officer-involved critical incidents to the victims’ next of kin within 48 hours and public within 15 days. Presently, the MCSO does not have a footage release policy.

The MCSO is facing great pressure from the community due to the six in-custody deaths that have occurred in the county jail in the past 18 months. Sheriff Denita Ball has yet to make any meaningful change in policy since taking office.

Brian Verdin, Education Chair of the Milwaukee Alliance, stated, “There should be some kind of policy at the county level, and it seems to me like there is no oversight to the MCSO at all. What we’re looking for is truth, transparency, and the whole damn video.”

Dr. Rose Scott of Prison Action Milwaukee shared testimony with county supervisors, stating, “The pendulum has to lean towards justice, but currently what we’re seeing is punishment, punishment, punishment.”

Conditions inside the county jail fell under heavy scrutiny last month for their use of pepper spray in a confined space to punish jail residents who were refusing to return to cells as part of a demand for more than one hour spent outside of the cell per day.

The proposed policy from Supervisor Clancy would not change jail policy, as only Sheriff Ball has that power, but it would apply further pressure on Sheriff Ball to head community demands.

“I don’t care much if someone is nice, I care what the policy is because that’s what determines what may or may not hurt the people we’re supposed to be caring for,” Clancy said.

Community organizations, individuals, and representatives have made it clear they plan to continue the fight for transparency and accountability from the MCSO. If the proposal passes through the county judiciary committee, it will move to the entire county board for adoption.

#MilwaukeeWI #InJusticeSystem #MAARPR