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Saturday, October 27, 2007

What Really Did Happen, Mr. Walker?

by capper

One thing that both sides of the blogosphere can agree on, even if for different reasons, is that the local media is less than ideal. A prime example is the coverage that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gave today to the Freddie Dudley incident. Freddie Dudley was an inmate at the Community Correctional Center (CCC), which is operated by Milwaukee County, specifically the House of Corrections (HOC). Dudley, instead of returning to CCC, called in to say he was working late, and then had someone sign his name on the list. Meanwhile, Dudley stayed out, partied, and ended up shooting another man to death. Scott Walker, Tosa Ranger, was quite irate and promised to look into it and hold the culprit(s) responsible.

In today's story, we find that Walker has found his scapegoats the bad officers. But, given that I worked for HOC a ways back, and still know people that worked there, I saw many red flags in this story. First, Walker only sent out a press release. This would indicate he didn't want to be asked a lot of questions. Press releases are usually only sent out on mundane matters, or on things that politicians want to avoid dealing with. He also sent out the release on a Friday afternoon, another sign of trying to avoid a lot of pesky questions.

The Tosa Ranger's press release only said that three officers were suspended with pay until they went before the Personnel Review Board for termination hearings. Two supervising officers are facing either demotion or suspension. The press release did not reveal what the allegations against the officers are, except for "not following 'established guidelines for situations such as this'". (SIDENOTE: How often does an inmate go AWOL and kill someone that they have established guidelines for this sort of thing?)

There are many things that the story didn't report. One, the CCC is adjacent to the Medical Examiner's Office. They are so close that guards have to escort inmate porters through the MEO to take out the garbage. CCC was formerly a medical hospital, and was not really designed to hold prisoners. Furthermore, the CCC is in terrible condition due to lack of maintenance. Due to the poor design and shotty maintenance, it is very hard to monitor inmates that are supposed to be there.

Another missing aspect, is that the officers at CCC and HOC have been working large amounts of overtime due to being overcrowded and understaffed. This dangerous condition is due in no small part to Walker's irresponsible budgeting decisions. As I have mentioned before, when people in any job, work 12-16 hour days, six or seven days a week, for several months, they are not going to be at peak performance. This is true for cops, deputies and corrections officers, who are needed to be at top performance, not only for their own safety, but for the safety of the community as a whole. I pointed this out when an inmate escaped from HOC this past summer.
Nowhere in the article is this even mentioned, much less how much fatigue may have played into these two incidents.

A few other tidbits that wouldn't be reported or even asked.

  • The members of the Personnel Review Board are all appointed by Walker. Does anyone wonder what the results of their reviews will be, regardless of the facts of the case.
  • Dudley not only had someone sign in for him, but the same person apparently slept in his bed, so that the body counts wouldn't be off (this came to me from some former coworkers who will remain nameless for obvious reasons).
  • Inmates at CCC aren't required to wear ID bracelets as are the inmates at HOC and the Milwaukee County Jail.
  • Why is Walker waiting for the officers to be (probably) fired before he orders a probe of the policies?
  • Why would he think that the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office would be able to do a fair and honest review of HOC's policies, given their working relationship?

I would also be remiss if I failed to mention that anyone that has worked in law enforcement or corrections would tell you that the evenings and nights are the busiest times, or power shifts. Walker wants to close the CCC and put all the inmates on GPS monitors. Given that Dudley shot the victim in the middle of the night, I guess Walker's plan would allow enforcement officers to know exactly where all these inmates are when they start shooting people.

I have two questions for Walker. The first is if he is taking this action against these officers? Is it to avoid the inevitable lawsuit from the victims family, or because he has an election coming up (if he ever decides if he is running)?

The second question is this: In his 2008 budget speech (pdf), Walker promised to deliver "Safety. Affordability. And Pride." When was he planning to start offering these things, and what has he been doing for the past five and a half years?

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