August 15, 2007

Police Pay

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

In the wake of the recent convictions of Milwaukee Police Officers for the wrongful beating of Frank Jude Jr, our community is crying out for change.  A trust that once existed between the people and those who are empowered to protect them has all but disappeared.  There must be some demonstration by the police establishment that they recognize the need for reform, and for change.

The first step in that process must be an end to the ridiculous practice of paying police officers after they have been fired and charged for criminal violations.  It is absolutely disgusting that officers like those involved in the beating of Mr. Jude are still drawing paychecks – paychecks from our tax dollars.  For too long crooked cops have received this benefit, and it must end now!

Can you imagine being fired from work for breaking the law, and then demanding you continue to be paid?!  It’s truly absurd, and an insult to those who have been a victim of police brutality.  Milwaukee is the ONLY city in the United States that allows fired officers to continue their pay – often for years until all appeals are exhausted.  Common sense and common laws tell us this is wrong.

Now I am a firm believer that people are innocent until proven guilty.  These officers must be given their day in court, and must be provided every opportunity to prove their innocence.  If such innocence is proven, they should also be given the necessary back-pay.  This will ensure that the innocent are not penalized unfairly, and the guilty not rewarded unjustly.

That is why we must also give our public officials the tools they need to properly process these cases and complaints.  We must expand the Fire and Police Commission, and give it the tools it needs to answer citizen complaints and hold hearings to determine if misconduct occurred.  As the oversight body for our law enforcement officials, this commission must be a strong and effective watchdog for the citizens of Milwaukee.

The vast majority of police officers in Milwaukee are good, honest individuals who have dedicated their lives to public safety.  Each day they know that duty may call on them to make great sacrifices, and many have laid down their lives to protect our families.  They too have suffered because of the actions of a few, and it is for them that we must restore this trust.

We must join together now as a community that respects and upholds justice.  We must put an end to laws that allow thugs parading as cops to be rewarded for their brutality.  Whatever our political differences, we can all agree that justice must be done.  Only then can we move forward as one Milwaukee.