Why couldn’t they block reform before hiring the consultant?


Two commissioners resign, chief quits, clerk skips out and trustees falter amid demands for police reform




ShorewoodNewsroom Staff


SHOREWOOD, WIS. (Sept. 11, 2021) – Consultant Alexander Weiss presented the findings of his $50,000 Shorewood police organization study last November. Ten months later, many of his most important recommendations are getting short shrift.

Fifty thousand dollars is a hefty chunk of change. It would pay for three undergraduate years at UW-Madison, with enough left over to send the entire village board, village manager, acting police chief, acting village clerk and the remnant of the Police Commission to the League of Wisconsin Municipalities’ Police & Fire Commission Workshop November 3, 2021.


Yet costly as it was, the village manager, village board, police department and police commission are pushing back on most of the meaningful reforms, while citizen groups have actively sought to put teeth into citizen oversight and accountability. Since receiving the $50,000 report, the Public Safety Committee of the village board has met four times and the entire board has considered the issue twice, once in December and once in August.  During that time, the police department has updated policies as recommended, stopped using a police officer to make bank deposit runs and has begun to collect data on stops by race.  This data is posted on the website monthly


Two of Weiss’ recommendations involved citizen oversight of the Shorewood PD and improvements in the complaints process.  Efforts to implement both policies have centered on the role of the Police Commission. Shorewood’s Police Commission, when all seats are filled, is a five-person board, each appointed to a five-year term directly by the village president.  [According to State Statute, the duties of the Commission are to appoint the Chief, to set examination rules, and to approve any subordinate appointments made by the Chief.  The Commission is also empowered to adjudicate suspension and other discipline of officers after charges are filed by either the chief, the commission itself, or “any aggrieved person.”  In that situation, the Police Commission acts as an independent body, like a civil service commission, and judges the reasonableness and fairness of any charges before acting.] However, in the past two weeks Commission President Michael Y. O’Brien and Commissioner Chuck Carlson have resigned.

Shorewood has adopted rules and regulations for the Police Commission that further define its role.  Section 504 states that the commission may, in its discretion, hear informal citizen complaints and may either refer these complaints to the police chief {when there is a police chief) for investigation and possible disciplinary action, or cause its own investigation of the matter to be conducted.  Village ordinances also reference Section 66.312 of Wisconsin Statutes, allowing aggrieved persons to file a complaint about the conduct of law enforcement officers with the Shorewood Police Chief.

To explain disciplinary procedure to the village board and Police Commission in the face of citizens activists’ calls for reform, the village hired Attorney Steven Zach of Madison, who litigates for municipalities, including a Cuba City case where the chief did not discipline a police officer over a citizen complaint about her conduct while on duty, but fired her for putting in for overtime. Attorney Zach is an expert on grievance procedures and has been a speaker at LWM events.

The LWM is a lobbying association that also insures and defends in court at taxpayer expense municipal officials who violate the public trust. Many village residents are familiar with the League of Wisconsin

Milwaukee Alderman, Democratic Senate candidate charged with theft, fraud |  Fox News

Ald. Lewis

Newcomer Bockhorst, Incumbent Linnane Win Close Village Board Race |  Shorewood, WI Patch

Trustee Bockhorst

Ald. Bauman

Municipalities because our longest-serving trustee, Tammy Bockhorst, is a former president of the association. Trustee Bockhorst works as an aide to Milwaukee District 4 Alderman Robert Bauman, whose colleague on the common council, Chantia Lewis, is a candidate for U.S. Senator Ron Johnson’s seat. Ald. Lewis is also on the board of directors of the Wisconsin Municipal League. However, after she was charged Sept. 7 in a five-count criminal complaint with misconduct in office, embezzlement, theft by fraud, intentionally filing false reports or statements, and accepting unlawful disbursement. In short, she is accused of defrauding the city of Milwaukee and her campaign of at least $21,666. Ald. Lewis was stripped of her committee assignment duties,” including her role as vice-chair of the Public Safety and Health Committee.


In his meeting with Shorewood officials, Attorney Zach was not asked to discuss procedures for dealing with trustees who violate the public trust. In a limited presentation, he said an informal complaint may compromise the impartiality of the Police Commission if that complaint rises to the level of a formal complaint.  Zach also stated that in his opinion the Village Board could not give additional powers to the Commission, such as a role in police oversight.


While what remains of the Police Commission has now been effectively ruled out as an option for either informal complaints or civilian oversight, no one in Village government has proposed an alternative for either of these important functions.  Weiss suggested that the HRC could provide an annual report and review use of force and internal investigations.  His recommendation was that the Village use the Police Commission for informal complaints.  


As regards data collection, Weiss and the HRC both cited lack of data as an obstacle to monitoring police operations.  Weiss also noted that data is important to general management, focus on particular types of crimes, etc.  The SPD is stymied in its ability to collect more meaningful data because our data is controlled by Bayside dispatch.  The Department has proposed hiring a crime analyst, a suggestion which may be throwing good money after bad.   

Not discussed at all to date are Weiss’ comments on the Detective Bureau and the extraordinarily low percentage of cases that are investigated.


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