Kareem McKinley, 20, is lucky that police did not shoot him. That, McKinley said, is what police told him after he was arrested May 20 in front of his grandmother’s house on the North Side.
McKinley was about to drop off his newborn daughter when police suddenly surrounded his car. He was going to park, but he said officers thought he was trying to flee. A police vehicle then rammed into the back of McKinley’s car with his daughter still in the back seat, he said.
When McKinley got out of his car with his hands up, he said officers began to pistol whip him and to dig their knees into his body, leaving him with back pain and a gash on his head.
“I was shocked because anyone who knows my son knows he’s quiet and shy,” said Darisha McKinley, Kareem McKinley’s mother. “I couldn’t wait to talk to him to find out what was really going on, but when I talked to him it hurt (me) even more.”
Arrests like McKinley’s are not uncommon, as recent releases of body camera footage from the Sterling Brown incident show. In the videos, officers can be seen verbally and physically harassing Brown. His arrest has brought attention to police brutality and misconduct in Milwaukee, and community members are calling for change.
“Sterling Brown is a victim of what’s really going on in Milwaukee. He’s not exempt. He’s just another black man tormented by the police,” said Tory Lowe, a community advocate for better police relations.
Lowe accused MPD of doing “damage control” rather than focusing on solutions. Most recent video footage of Brown’s arrest shows officers expressing concern over the department’s image.
“Yeah, cuz he plays for the Bucks. If he makes a (expletive) complaint it’s gonna be a media firestorm. Any little (expletive) that goes wrong, it’s gonna be ‘oh MPD is all racist blah blah,'” one officer is heard to say on the video footage.
After the release of this tape, the Common Council demanded transparency, and Congresswoman Gwen Moore issued a statement challenging MPD to improve integrity, accountability and community-oriented policing.
“Enough is enough of this culture that tolerates violence by rogue officers and that continues to erode public confidence in our nation’s justice system,” Moore said in the statement. “On the heels of the $1.9 million Milwaukee Police Department ‘stop and frisk’ settlement, the shooting of Dontre Hamilton, and this most recent incident, it is long past time for MPD to make immediate reforms.”
Lowe said he is grateful that the Sterling Brown case is bringing publicity to the issue of police brutality, but he worries about those without the same resources as Brown.
“Sterling Brown got help and the mayor’s apology, but what about the hundreds of people in the city of Milwaukee that don’t have help?” Lowe said. He hopes this case and the response to it will “change some real policies for the people who are most affected,” he said.
Markasa Tucker, director of the African American Roundtable, is working for policy change as chairwoman of the Milwaukee Collaborative Reform Initiative community committee. The committee was formed after a Department of Justice Report was leaked last August, and it aims to provide recommendations to the Fire and Police Commission that reflect the community’s desires. She said she is hoping the committee will be able to include some community responses and suggestions in the 2019 city budget.
Tucker is calling for the Fire and Police Commission to revamp its standard operating procedures to reflect a sterner punishment for police misconduct and abuse of power. During a press conference shortly after the first release of the Sterling Brown tapes, Tucker asked for the firing of officers involved. Despite her request, an officer received a two-day suspension, and 10- and 15-day suspensions were given to two sergeants. Neither sergeant was demoted.
“If we’re talking about a new direction and changing what is happening … I feel like a precedent needs to be set,” Tucker said. “Just as people use black and brown folks to set an example, maybe these officers need to be made an example so other officers know this will not be tolerated.”
Tucker added that it will take more than policy change to improve MPD’s relationship with the community. MPD must get rid of its current police culture, she said.
“It’s about leadership. It’s about people who are willing to speak up and stand up when they see things out of order, even if it may cost them their job,” she said. MPD should replace those who insist on sticking with the old way of doing things and “get a fresh set of folks in who actually have a heart to serve — not just police people.”
Like Tucker, Kareem McKinley’s mother is asking for compassion from police. Although Darisha McKinley said she still fears for her son’s safety, she hopes police relations can improve.
“Behind the badge, they’re still human beings who have hearts and minds, and they need to understand that these people they’re arresting are still somebody’s child and father.”
Thomas Spellman says
Letter to Mayor Barrett
You may have done some of these things already. Just a morning stream of consciousness.
What a mess What shaming has been done to the people of Milwaukee
When will we ever learn Yes as Dylan asked When will we ever learn.
Not to release ALL the video and information immediately in January!! It is public information. All the BS about investigation is just that when this kind of stuff happens. Not to have noted that the police blog is PUBLIC INFORMATION and for the police chief to play the silly game of not releasing the name makes him look like a fool. Yes there is a law that again demonstrated the Unions stupidity in the final analysis. For the good cops of Milwaukee the Union must be exposed for what it is and only you can do that.
You know better than I how messed up this is and it is intentional THEY ARE BULLIES as was demonstrated by the fist offices attitude “I own this” WHAT DOES THAT MEAN He should be FIRED but give a 2 day suspension???? First he SHAMES the city and the black community and then the others shames ALL of us again and ALL the other cops as well. WOW!!! To have such power and to let then have such power!!! And then not to demand a public apology!! To let them have 4 months to investigate and to soil the new police chief who is worthless to Milwaukee now! WHO WILL TRUST HIM and WHY SHOULD THEY TRUST HIM. He should resign and if he wants his old job back to give it to him and hire a new chief from outside.
Yes the Police and Fire Commission is there as a buffer BUT YOU, TOM Barrett represent the CITY and you are its VOICE and to tolerate being SHAMED without comment is unacceptable. The least you can do is demand an apology from all of them and if they refuse then fire them or recommend that they be fired. They willfully caused a multi million dollar settlement and Paid no consequence for it.
This was a ticket for illegally parking and we were within a hairs breath of murder by cop!!!!!!! And a 15 day suspension??????????????????? And retraining
Training when the attitude of COP privilege was NEVER clearer.
For some absurd reason the COPS through their union think that they have job security by creating a hostel city and then the Union can say we are the gooooood guys. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But nothing new in Milwaukee except it is time to stand up to them and let citizens of the City and the country know that NO longer will their arrogance be accepted and that THEY WILL APOLOGIZE or the will be FIRED and if they can not be fired they will be given work where they CAN NOT interact with the public ever again, if the job is doing nothing but sitting in a room with no windows as a guarantee to the public.
The apology will include, not just I am sorry BUT I am aware that my actions caused GREAT HARM to the citizens of Milwaukee and to Mr Brown and to the black community and for that we are sincerely sorry. It was stupid and arrogant on my part. Even putting this out there bucks folks up. Yes they did great HARM and yes they should apologize and isolates the Union when the Union refuses to let then apologize.
Then let the healing begin If the Union refuses to allow the officers to apologize then the battle is clear and it seems that it will be a battle that will be carried out in many cities across the country. Also there are many cops who are embarrassed by the behavior of these few but to let the behavior of the few be their image and be the image of the department will expose the Union for what they are Selfish republicans A truly scientific analysis.