Milwaukee Police Department

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Milwaukee Police Department
Shoulder Patch
Shoulder Patch
Agency overview
FormedSeptember 3, 1855
Annual budget$297 million (2020)
Jurisdictional structure
Legal jurisdictionMunicipal
Operational structure
HeadquartersPolice Administration Building
749 W. State Street
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee County Wisconsin incorporated and unincorporated areas Milwaukee highlighted.svg
Sworn members1,738
Agency executive
  • Jeffrey B. Norman, Chief
  • District 1
  • District 2
  • District 3
  • District 4
  • District 5
  • District 6
  • District 7
  • Specialized Patrol Division
Police boats2

The Milwaukee Police Department is the police department organized under the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The department has a contingent of about 1,800 sworn officers when at full strength and is divided into seven districts.[1] Jeffrey B. Norman is the current chief of police, serving since December 2020.


MPD was founded in 1855. At the time, Milwaukee had an extremely high crime rate, fueled by local gangs, mobs, thieves and robbers. Milwaukee was originally served by the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office, which became increasingly unable to provide adequate enforcement to the growing city. With burgeoning crime rates, citizens enacted an ordinance creating the Milwaukee Police Department.

Milwaukee's first chief of police was William Beck, a former NYPD detective, and its first policemen were Fred Keppler, John Hardy, George Fische, James Rice, L.G. Ryan and David Coughlin. As the department expanded, patrolmen were supplemented by "roundsmen", who would lead the patrolmen out to their beats at the beginning of the evening shift, and supervise them during the shift. A roundsman earned $5 more a month than a patrol officer.[2]

The office of police chief, like the department in general, was subject to political forces for most of its history; for example, in 1878 new Mayor John Black appointed fellow Democrat Daniel Kennedy as chief, and Kennedy promptly fired 25 Republican patrolmen (as part of the spoils system then prevalent).[3]

In 1924, Judson W. Minor became the Department's first African-American officer and in 1975 Ada Wright became the first female MPD officer. On November 15, 1996 Arthur Jones became the first African-American chief. A lawsuit filed after his term found that Jones discriminated against officers based on their race, giving African-American officers promotions before European-American officers.[citation needed][4]

1917 Bombing[edit]

On November 24, 1917, a large black powder bomb,[5] wrapped as a package, was discovered by Maude L. Richter, a social worker, next to an evangelical church in the third ward.[6] She dragged the package into the church basement and notified the church janitor, Sam Mazzone.[7] Mazzone brought the bomb to the central police station at Oneida and Broadway and turned it over to police.[5][8] The station keeper was showing it to the shift commander, Lieutenant Flood, right before a scheduled inspection, when it exploded.[7]

Nine members of the department were killed in the blast, along with a female civilian.[5][8] It was suspected at the time that the bomb had been placed outside the church by anarchists, particularly the Galleanist faction led by adherents of Luigi Galleani. At the time, the bomber's identity was not uncovered. Many years later, interviews with surviving Galleanist members revealed that Croatian national Mario Buda, chief bombmaker for the Galleanists, may have constructed the Milwaukee bomb.[8][9][10][11][12]

At the time, the bombing was the most fatal single event in national law enforcement history,[13] only surpassed later by the September 11 attacks on September 11, 2001 when 72 law enforcement officers representing eight different agencies were killed. Those responsible for the 1917 bombing never were apprehended, but days later, eleven alleged Italian anarchists went to trial on unrelated charges involving a fracas that had occurred two months before. The specter of the larger, uncharged crime of the bombing haunted the proceedings and assured convictions of all eleven. In 1918 Clarence Darrow led an appeal that gained freedom for most of the convicted.[14]

Police Administration Building- Headquarters of the Milwaukee Police Department


According to an investigation by the federal Department of Justice, in the second half of the 1970s, 22 people died while in the custody of the Milwaukee police.[15]

In September 1990, the department established a canine unit composed of six German shepherd dogs and six handler officers.[16]

21st century[edit]

The first female captain in the Milwaukee Police Department was Nannette Hegerty, who also became the first female chief of police in 2004. She retired in November 2007.[17]

Chiefs of Police[edit]

  • Jeffrey B. Norman 2020–Present
  • Michael Brunson (acting) – 2020.[18]
  • Alfonso Morales – 2018–2020. Morales was demoted to captain.[19]
  • Edward A. Flynn – 2008–2018. Flynn's first 2 years were with low crime data, but crime then peaked following 2010. Flynn has also had controversies with some of the comments he has made and by the police union as well in the case of firing officer Chris Manney following the shooting death of Dontre Hamilton. Flynn also assisted the agency with the purchasing of the Smith & Wesson M&P .40 S&W pistols and the Smith & Wesson M&P15 rifles.[citation needed]
  • Nannette Hegerty – 2003-2007- First female chief of police, she also handled the firing of 9 officers and disciplining of others in the beating case of Frank Jude Jr. by off duty officers.[citation needed]
  • Arthur L. Jones – 1996-2003. Jones was the first African-American Chief of the MPD[citation needed]
  • Phillip Arreola – 1989-1996. Arreola assisted the agency in the switch to Glock 22 pistols in the early 1990s.[citation needed]
  • Robert Ziarnik – 1984-1989. Retired in 1983 as a Deputy Inspector, but came out of retirement for the position of Police Chief.[citation needed]
  • Harold Breier – 1964-1984. Breier, an opponent of the US civil rights movement,[20] faced intense criticism from Milwaukee's African-American communities for his long-held racist views, support for racist policies, and the police killings of several Black individuals.[15][21][22][23]


Daniel Bell[edit]

In 1958, Officer Thomas Grady shot Daniel Bell in the back, killing him. Investigations at the time cleared Grady of any wrongdoing. In 1978, Grady's partner indicated that the officer had planted a knife on Bell's body to falsely indicate he had been armed. Grady plead guilty to reckless homicide and perjury.[24] Milwaukee city officials, unwilling to pay the sum awarded to the Bell family, appealed and repeatedly refused the family's offers to settle for smaller sums. In September 1984, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago awarded $1.6 million, twice the amount the family had offered to settle for earlier.[25]

Lawrencia "Bambi" Bembenek[edit]

On May 28, 1981, police officer Lawrencia Bembenek murdered her husband's ex-wife. Her conviction, escape, and subsequent court proceedings received big media play.

Return of victim to Jeffrey Dahmer[edit]

In the early morning hours of May 27, 1991, 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone (the younger brother of a boy Dahmer had molested) was discovered on the street, wandering nude. Reports of the boy's injuries varied. Jeffrey Dahmer, who had drugged and raped the boy, told police that they had an argument while drinking, and that Sinthasomphone was his 19-year-old lover. Against the teenager's protests, police turned him over to Dahmer. The officers later reported smelling a strange odor, which was eventually found to be bodies in the back of his room. Later that night Dahmer killed and dismembered Sinthasomphone, keeping his skull as a souvenir. Dahmer went on to kill four more people.[26]

John Balcerzak and Joseph Gabrish, the two police officers who returned Sinthasomphone to Dahmer, were fired from the Milwaukee Police Department after their actions were widely publicized, including an audiotape of the officers making homophobic statements to their dispatcher and laughing about having reunited the "lovers." The two officers appealed their termination, and were reinstated with back pay. Balcerzak would go on to be elected president of the Milwaukee Police Association in May 2005. Gabrish went on to be captain of the Grafton Police Department before retiring in 2019,[27] as well as the chief of police for the town of Trenton, Wisconsin, 30 miles north of Milwaukee.[28][29]

Chicago shootings[edit]

In 1994, two Milwaukee police officers, Gabriel Bedoya and John Koch, went on a shooting spree in the city of Chicago. They fired shots at random into buildings on the Gold Coast of Chicago, including the residence of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. When denied entry to a nightclub, Bedoya shot the bouncer at close range in the head, killing him, and the two fled back to Milwaukee.[30]

Frank Jude Jr.[edit]

In October, 2004, Frank Jude Jr. attended a party held by police officer Andrew Spengler. Following allegations that Jude had taken an officer's badge, at least three officers confronted and beat Jude outside of Spengler's home. Officers Daniel Masarik, Andrew Spengler and Jon Bartlett were arrested and charged with the beating. All three were later fired from the Milwaukee Police Department, as were several other involved officers. The officers disciplined were both on- and off-duty the night of the beating.

Masarik, Spengler and Bartlett were later found not guilty in state court. In July 2007, these three officers and another officer, Ryan Packard, went on trial in federal court on charges of violating the civil rights of Frank Jude Jr. and his friend, Levelle Harris. Spengler, Masarik and Bartlett were found guilty; Packard was found not guilty. The officers were sentenced on November 29, 2007. Bartlett received 17 years, Masarik and Spengler both received 15 years.

The officers' attorneys have said the officers will appeal the sentences.[31][32]

Alfonzo Glover[edit]

In March 2005, press reports recount that Officer Alfonzo Glover shot Wilbert Prado eight times, killing him, after an off-duty traffic altercation. Charges were filed on Officer Glover, but he killed himself before he could be brought to court.[24]

Ladmarald Cates[edit]

Officer Ladmarald Cates was convicted in January 2012 of the 2010 rape of a 19-year-old mother and was sentenced to 24 years in prison.[33]

Accidental shooting[edit]

In November 2011, Officer Michael Edwards was in a shopping mall food court when his handgun accidentally discharged, causing a piece of debris to injure a bystander. Edwards contacted mall security immediately and was cooperative with the investigation. Greendale Police, who investigated the incident, noted that it was a freak accident. Edwards pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct.[34][35][36]

Beating of handcuffed suspects[edit]

In May 2012, Officer Richard Schoen, a veteran of nine years' service was fired when footage from his car's camera showed him beating a woman handcuffed in the back of his car.[37]

Later in the year, the city's Fire and Police Commission forced the department to rehire the officer.[38] Public outrage forced the commission to change their decision.[39]

Strip searches[edit]

In March 2012, a number of police officers were investigated for conducting strip searches in public on people they had arrested.[40][41] In October 2012, Officer Michael Vagnini was charged with 25 counts of sexual assault and other crimes, Officer Jeffrey Dollhop was accused two counts of official misconduct and one count each of conducting an illegal strip search and an illegal cavity search, and two other officers, Jacob Knight and Brian Kozelek, each faced a single count of official misconduct.[42] In October 2013, Dollhopf and Kozelek pleaded no contest in exchange for a sentence of fines and community service.[43] In December 2013, Officer Vagnini was sentenced to 26 months in prison.[44]

Six officers were investigated for obstructing the inquiry into these illegal strip searches. To prevent collusion by the officers, the court issued an order preventing discussion of the strip searches. In 2012, five officers were suspected of violating this court order soon after they were subpoenaed to testify at a secret fact-finding hearing. Despite video and document proof of having broken laws and violating department policies, these officers did not face criminal charges or departmental disciplining. Officer Stephanie Seitz was investigated for perjury,[45][46] but Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern declined to charge her with a crime.[47]

Dontre Hamilton[edit]

On April 30, 2014, a police officer, Christopher Manney, fatally shot and killed Dontre Hamilton, a 31-year-old African-American man who had been resting in downtown Milwaukee's Red Arrow Park. Police say Hamilton was shot 14 times after he struggled with an officer, took the officer's baton, and hit the officer in the head. Witness accounts differ, and some stated they never saw Dontre strike Manney with the baton.[48]

When Manney responded to the scene he was unaware that two Milwaukee police officers had twice responded to a call from one of the park's Starbucks employees and had performed a wellness check on Hamilton. During MPD's investigation following the incident, the department learned that Hamilton was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic.

Police Chief Edward Flynn fired Manney in October, saying he had violated department policy regarding a pat-down. Manney tried to rejoin the Milwaukee Police Department, but his appeal was unanimously denied by the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission members in March 2015, and his firing was upheld.[49] The district attorney, finding the use of force to be in self-defense, declined to prosecute.[50]

Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown[edit]

On January 26, 2018, Sterling Brown was tased and arrested inappropriately according to the Milwaukee Police Department Police Chief Alfonso Morales the following May.[51] Brown brought suit in June 2018 after the May release of bodycam footage and alleges racial profiling occurred in the administration of a parking ticket at a Walgreens parking lot. In October 2019, Brown rejected a $400,000 settlement offer.[52] Brown has expressed that he has rejected the offer in part due to his ability and sense of responsibility to use his platform as an NBA player to raise awareness.[53] November 27, 2019 court filings indicate that a federal civil rights lawsuit is proceeding to trial.[54]


A Milwaukee Police Department Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor

The Milwaukee Police Department vehicle fleet consists of mixture of Ford Police Interceptor Utilities, Chevrolet Tahoe Police Pursuit Vehicles, Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors and Harley Davidson motorcycles for street patrols. The department also has a fleet of two boats and several support and specialized vehicles.

In 2019, CBS 58 found 379 of the 800 vehicles in the Milwaukee Police Department have more than 100,000 miles, five had over 200,000.[55]

The current colors of MPD vehicles are black and white with "MILWAUKEE POLICE" and the department's badge emblazoned on both sides. In 2021, the department has introduced all black colored squads as they transition to the solid color moving forward.[56]


In 2019, the MPD transitioned to the SIG Sauer P320 in 9mm following issues which involved frames cracking on the M&P40 pistols used by MPD. The holster chosen for the P320 pistols is made by Safariland, a company known for making various holsters and accessories.[57]

As of 2018, Milwaukee police officers are armed with the Smith & Wesson M&P .40 S&W, which is the standard issue weapon for the department.[58] It replaced the Glock 22 .40 caliber pistol following issues with the Glock's performance back in 2009.[59]

As of 2009, the standard-issue patrol rifle is the Smith & Wesson M&P15; it was first purchased when the agency went to the M&P .40 sidearm.[59]

Fallen officers[edit]

Since the establishment of the Milwaukee Police Department in 1855, 64 officers have died while on duty.[60] The most recent on-duty death occurred on February 6, 2019, as an officer was shot by a suspect during the execution of a search warrant.[61]

Cause of death[60] Number of deaths[60]
Automobile accident
Gunfire (Accidental)
Heart attack
Motorcycle accident
Struck by streetcar
Struck by train
Struck by vehicle
Vehicle pursuit

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Milwaukee Common Council to vote on three amendments to Barrett's Executive Budget".
  2. ^ Maralyn A. Wellauer-Lenius, Milwaukee Police Department. Mt. Pleasant, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2008, p. 16.
  3. ^ Wellauer-Lenius, p. 10.
  4. ^ "Arthur L. Jones 1996 - 2003". City of Milwaukee. Archived from the original on 2012-07-28.
  5. ^ a b c Balousek, Marv, and Kirsch, J. Allen, 50 Wisconsin Crimes of the Century, Badger Books Inc. (1997), ISBN 1-878569-47-3, ISBN 978-1-878569-47-9, p. 113
  6. ^ The Indianapolis Star, "Bomb Mystery Baffles Police", November 26, 1917
  7. ^ a b The Indianapolis Star, "Bomb Mystery Baffles Police", November 26, 1917
  8. ^ a b c "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-02-20. Retrieved 2012-01-04.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) "Milwaukee Police Department Officer Memorial Page"
  9. ^ Watson, Bruce, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind, Viking Press (2007), ISBN 0-670-06353-3, ISBN 978-0-670-06353-6, p. 15
  10. ^ Avrich, Paul, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background, Princeton: Princeton University Press (1991)
  11. ^ Avrich, Paul, Anarchist Voices: An Oral History of Anarchism in America, Princeton: Princeton University Press (1996)
  12. ^ Dell’Arti, Giorgio (26 January 2002). "La Storia di Mario Buda" (PDF).
  13. ^ "Deadliest Days in Law Enforcement History". Archived from the original on 8 July 2016. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  14. ^ Strang, Dean A. Worse than the Devil: Anarchists, Clarence Darrow, and Justice in a Time of Terror, Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press (2012).
  15. ^ a b Taylor, Flint (September 7, 2016). "In Milwaukee, a History of Racist Violence Fuels Mistrust of the Police Department". In These Times. Retrieved 2020-09-30.
  16. ^ "Canine Unit (K9 Unit)". Milwaukee Police Historical Society. Retrieved 20 April 2021.
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-08-01.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) "Milwaukee Police Department History Page"
  18. ^ Luthern, Ashley (August 6, 2020). "Who is Michael Brunson, Milwaukee's new acting chief of police?". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2020-09-30.
  19. ^ Miston, Bill (August 12, 2020). "Alfonso Morales to retire, pursue legal action following MPD demotion, attorney says". FOX 6 Now Milwaukee. Retrieved 2020-09-30.
  20. ^ O'Brien, Brendan (August 15, 2016). "After decades of segregation, anger boils over in Milwaukee". Reuters. Retrieved 2020-09-30.
  21. ^ Tchakirides, Will (June 3, 2018). "Long before Sterling Brown's arrest, Milwaukee struggled with a policing problem". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2020-09-30.
  22. ^ "Chief's View on Black Crime Roils Milwaukee". The New York Times. AP. March 4, 1984. Retrieved 2020-09-30.
  23. ^ "Lawsuit Brings Fresh Scrutiny To Milwaukee's Troubles With Race And Policing". NPR. February 28, 2017. Retrieved 2020-09-30.
  24. ^ a b Gina Barton, "In 25 years, no charges recommended in Milwaukee inquests", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 6, 2012.
  25. ^ White, Sylvia Bell, and Jody LePage. Sister: An African American Life in Search of Justice, Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press (2013).
  26. ^ "Officers Tell Jury of Letting Dahmer Keep Boy," New York Times, February 13, 1992.
  27. ^ "Resolution". 2019. Retrieved 2021-01-31.
  28. ^ [1][dead link]
  29. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-22. Retrieved 2011-01-11.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  30. ^ "1-99-1750". Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  31. ^ 3 ex-officers guilty Archived 2007-10-13 at the Wayback Machine", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 26, 2007.
  32. ^ "Ex-officers in Jude beating case get sentences of up to 17 years Archived 2008-02-01 at the Wayback Machine", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 29, 2007.
  33. ^ Federal jury finds fired police officer guilty in assault case Officer had responded to victim's 911 call, by Gina Barton, Journal-Sentinel, 11 January 2012
  34. ^ "MPD officer whose gun discharged in Southridge Mall reaches plea deal". FOX 6 Now Milwaukee. October 18, 2012.
  35. ^ "Officer sentenced after gun went off at Southridge Mall". WISN. October 25, 2012.
  36. ^ Viviana Buzo, "Cop Guilty of Accidental Gun Discharge in Southridge," Greendale Patch, October 18, 2012.
  37. ^ Brandon Cruz, "Milwaukee police release video showing conduct of fired officer,", May 25, 2012.
  38. ^ Milwaukee Police Officer Richard Schoen punches woman, fired and then re-hired, by CNN,, 5 December 2012
  39. ^ "Officer fired in unanimous decision by Fire and Police Commission", by Gina Barton, Journal-Sentinel, December 11, 2012
  40. ^ Gitte Laasby and John Diedrich, "Strip-search complaints against Milwaukee police continue to surface," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 27, 2012.
  41. ^ Gitte Laaasby, "Milwaukee police get more complaints of cavity searches, chief says," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 11, 2012.
  42. ^ Gina Barton and John Diedrich, "4 Milwaukee police officers charged in strip-search case," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 9, 2012.
  43. ^ Milwaukee cops take plea deal in strip-search case, by the Associated Press, 21 October 2013, Wislawjournal.coom
  44. ^ Unbelievably lenient sentence for cop who fingered suspects’ anuses, The Daily Caller, December 29, 2013.
  45. ^ Allen, Michael (2014-09-14). "Video Proves Milwaukee Police Officer Saw Illegal Strip Search, She Denied Watching". Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  46. ^ Barton, Gina (2014-09-13). "Officers investigated for hampering strip search inquiry not charged". Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee, Wisconsin). Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  47. ^ Barton, Gina (September 13, 2014). "Officers investigated for hampering strip search inquiry not charged". Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee, Wisconsin). Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  48. ^ "Witness account of officer-involved shooting is very different from police account". 6 May 2014. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  49. ^ Bella, Timothy. "What the Family of Dontre Hamilton — Shot 14 Times by Police and Killed — Wants You to Know About His Story". Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  50. ^ "Dontre Hamilton case: Former officer not charged in fatal Milwaukee shooting". 22 December 2014.
  51. ^ Owens, Jason (May 23, 2018). "Milwaukee police release video, apologize for use of Taser during arrest of Bucks G Sterling Brown". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  52. ^ Woodyard, Eric (December 18, 2019). "Bucks' Sterling Brown: Lawsuit against city of Milwaukee not about money". ESPN. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  53. ^ Young, Ryan (December 19, 2019). "Sterling Brown on turning down settlement from Milwaukee: 'It was just a slap in the face'". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  54. ^ McCann, Michael (December 4, 2019). "What's Next in Sterling Brown's Police Brutality Case?". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  55. ^ "CBS 58 Investigates: How safe are the squad cars driven by Milwaukee police officers?". CBS 58. February 27, 2019. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  56. ^ "Milwaukee Police Department phases in new all-black squad cars". CBS 58. March 25, 2021. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  57. ^ "StackPath".
  58. ^ "Officer shoots man after struggle in Milwaukee". Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  59. ^ a b "Milwaukee Police Department Converts to Smith & Wesson M&P40 Pistols". 4 May 2009. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  60. ^ a b c "Milwaukee Police Department, Wisconsin, Fallen Officers". The Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP).
  61. ^ Luthern, Ashley (13 Feb 2019). "Milwaukee police mourning for third time in less than a year after officer Matthew Rittner killed". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 13 Feb 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°02′34″N 87°55′17″W / 43.042680°N 87.921261°W / 43.042680; -87.921261