Your Right to Know

By Carrie Trousil Actions speak louder than words. Unfortunately, sometimes it can be hard to get an action to answer a specific question. Case in point: A few months ago, I had a question for the police. This is what happened: I am looking out my window and notice three squads parked strategically in front of my house. I don’t know why they’re there. Is my yard harboring a fugitive? So I keep looking. An hour passes. That’s a long time for nothing to happen, but something big must be in the works, hence the three squads. I have a friend over, and reluctantly he agrees to ask them what’s up. So he goes outside to talk. He approaches one car, asking his question, and the officer in query answers by rolling up his window. Two seconds and the conversation is over. When the cop rolls up the window in your face, it means, “Go away.” This action begs another question. Do we have rights when it comes to being informed of what’s happening in our own front yards, in our own neighborhood? If so, where do we find the information? Apparently, in District 5, this person is community liaison Officer Bruce Scott. I decide to get a hold of him. Unfortunately, getting Officer Scott face to face is a little like getting to the Pope. I call our liaison for an interview, and he says “okay,” but that first I’ll have to call the Office of the Chief, to clear it with her. So I do — not quite so easy. They want a request in writing, and I fax it off. About a week and five calls later, I get the interview. You see the irony at work. When the interview rolls around, it doesn’t go as planned. Officer Scott is not mean, he’s just not overly conversational. He does what he’s paid to do, which isn’t to give a writer dirt. After all, if he were in the business of disseminating ideas and information, he’d have my job. Not that it’s a complete bust, though, as I manage to get answers on a few topics. Such as, if the cops are in front of your house, and not busy with a shoot-out or whatnot, they can tell you what’s going on. In fact, it’s probably encouraged. If they do blow you off, you can complain. It’s okay to be a nuisance sometimes. The police can and should be accountable to the public, because their motto is “to protect and serve.” That doesn’t mean the police protect and serve themselves and their good reputations, it means they protect and serve the public. This also means they respond to car break-ins. There’s been a rumor circulating that police “can’t do anything” if auto damage is less than $2,000. Not true. They can and should file a police report, but often don’t have the time and ability to come to the scene. Make sure to file a report of any such instance. If an officer tells you they can’t help, be persistent. Talk to someone else, and try to contact Bruce Scott about the incident. Now, the point here isn’t to cop-bash. I know dads, neighbors, and coworkers who are, or used to be, part of a police force, and they’re all wonderful people, or at least, their character flaws are not job-related. It’s just that, as at any public service job, police are accountable to their communities. So if you do have some sort of complaint, don’t file it with your friends at bingo night, file it at the police station. As Officer Scott says, “If you feel your rights have been violated — file a complaint.” I’m not promising any fabulous retribution here, but you can help correct a wrong. As a citizen, if you believe you have been mistreated or have not received adequate service, you have a moral and legal right to express dissatisfaction with your police department. This will not only make you a responsible citizen, but your input will help to improve the department. Contact the following if you have question or complaints: District 5 Community Liaison Officer Bruce Scott (414) 935-7258 Milwaukee Police Department Internal Affairs Division 6680 North Teutonia Avenue Room 325 Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53209 414-935-7942 or online at