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Chief disputes view effort is race-based


June 20, 2000
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Chief disputes view effort is race-based

Still, Jones acknowledges minorities often involved when police stop citizens Milwaukee Journal Sentinel -- Milwaukee Police Chief Arthur Jones firmly disputes any notion that " quality of life" policing, or any other police strategy, is race-based.He acknowledges, though, that blacks and other ethnic minorities are more likely to get hassled by police as a natural consequence of his department's focus on high-crime neighborhoods that happen to be minority-dominated.Last October, Jones, the city's first black chief, banned police from routinely asking drivers' permission to search cars for weapons or drugs during routine traffic stops. His reason, he said in a recent interview, was that hundreds of drivers, most of them black, were having their cars turned inside out while they stood handcuffed during often-fruitless searches. "It started getting out of hand, it started getting abusive," Jones said. "They even did it with women. I received complaints."Was the practice -- which accelerated due to the quality of life strategy's traffic emphasis -- an example of being singled out for "driving while black?" Jones was asked."Yes, probably it is, " Jones said. "It happened to young black and Hispanic males, but it wouldn't happen to you," he said, gesturing toward a white reporter. "But if you were black on Teutonia and Center you'd get stopped."Jones said officers defended the search requests as necessary for self-protection. "But the net result was that for every person who ultimately was wanted on a felony and would have been handcuffed anyway, look at all the hundreds of people that you handcuffed that didn't need it. Look at all the vehicles that were searched and there was nothing in the cars," Jones said."You have private papers in your car, somebody's been through them; in some cases they'd remove the rear seats. They say 'Thank you, have a nice day,' because you gave permission to search. Well you don't have a nice day."And when the kid gets home and says I got stopped by the police and ticketed for an illegal turn on red, parents get upset that the car was rifled."Jones said police don't stop every fancy car in the inner city on suspicion that a drug dealer may be at the wheel. Many dope dealers, burned by having fine autos seized by authorities, now drive nondescript cars, he said.But police "still stop young people driving a car they don't look comfortable in" because it suggests they may have stolen it, Jones said."When we see young males in the kind of cars that are stolen, we pull them over. Unfortunately, it can turn out to be their dad's car. But if it's stolen, dad would want us to find it. So it's a Catch-22."Concentrated CrimeThe reality for Milwaukee police, Jones said, is that black males commit a majority of crimes in the city."The black community doesn't really want to own up to the fact that black-on-black crime is the biggest problem," Jones said.Jones said data show that 80% of crime is committed in two central city "area-specific policing" neighborhoods where the department concentrates patrols. They are a large section of the north side and a smaller section of the near south side. The department last year added a third high-patrol area -- the North Meadows housing development on the far northwest side.Exactly two-thirds of all non- traffic quality of life tickets were issued inside the three special zones, a Journal Sentinel mapping analysis of one year of offenses found.People in neighborhoods react differently to police depending on how much crime and disorder occurs and is tolerated, Jones said. The attitude that people bring to contacts with the police can determine whether tickets are issued, he said. He gave the example of a citizen in the middle-class Sherman Park area opening a beer while standing on the sidewalk after cutting grass. When told it's a violation, that person might cooperate and receive a warning.But several blocks east in a tougher neighborhood, a citizen might blow up at the cop, forcing the officer to issue a ticket or make an arrest.Jones emphasized that he talks to every officer in the department at training sessions to disabuse anybody of the notion that "they (minorities) 'want to live like that.' It can be one or two isolated houses on a block (that create trouble)."A veteran police supervisor, who asked to remain anonymous, said police don't profile based on race, they profile based on people's conduct and what time they are spotted in a neighborhood."It could be whites in a black neighborhood," the supervisor said.Jones recently issued another order barring officers from chasing after people into suspected drug houses when they flee from police. Such scenes are common, based, if nothing else, on the number of tickets police are issuing.Based on sometimes thin suspicions, five or six officers were knocking down doors and barging into homes, sometimes in error, Jones said. Residents and officers alike were endangered, he said. Now Jones requires a consultation with supervisors over whether a search warrant is needed. He did not explicitly say such searches fell more heavily on minorities."It's time for us to change some of our behaviors," Jones said. "It was happening more, and cops are younger, and guns are out there."The chief said he was not troubled by a Journal Sentinel finding that even violations that are common citywide -- like speeding and jaywalking -- produced more tickets in the minority inner city than elsewhere.There's more disorder there, contributing to an "aura of lawlessness" that needs to be stopped, he said. Aggravations and safety hazards such as double-parking and loitering in the road happen more in black and Latino neighborhoods, Jones said.Black residents deserve every bit as much police protection as whites, and that includes safe streets, he said. Minority residents tell him to keep up the pressure on neighborhood nuisances. There is no evidence that quality of life policing has damaged citizen- police relations, Jones said."People want this," he said.He would be troubled by the racial disparity, Jones said, if there were direct evidence that speeding or jaywalking or other offenses by whites were seen and ignored by officers.The department has put special speeding patrols at intersections all over town, Jones said. "We set them up where the accident counts are highest."Jones said the Milwaukee Police Department does no internal analysis of the race of people stopped on any type of ticket. He expressed surprise that race was even recorded on traffic tickets.In fact, he is categorical about racial profiling: "This police department is not involved in, and will not be involved in, race-based enforcement."




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