Transcript

547:

Cops See It Differently, Part One
Transcript

Originally aired 02.06.2015

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Full audio: http://tal.fm/547

Prologue.

Ira Glass

Hey there, everybody. If you're listening on our podcast or the internet, there are words in this episode that we have un-beeped. If you prefer a beeped version of the show, you could find that at our website, thisamericanlife.org. There are 9-1-1 calls where people are basically calling the cops on the cops. Lisa Mahon did that in September. She was on her way to the county hospital in Chicago. Her mom was dying and the hospital called, saying that she'd stopped breathing and had just been put on a ventilator. So Lisa had her two kids in the back and her friend Jamal was up front, and she was just about to pull into the expressway near Hammond, Indiana, near where she lives, when a police officer pulled her over for not wearing a seat belt.

Lisa Mahon

Now, the strange part about all of this is when he asked me for my license and insurance, usually, the police officer gets back in the car and runs the license plates, runs the license. He didn't do any of that. He put the information in his pocket and never took it out. What officer puts it in a pocket and not go to the police car?

Ira Glass

And what's his manner like when he asked you for the license?

Lisa Mahon

Oh my god. Well, first of all, he's moving from side to side. His body is not still. His eyes wasn't blinking. He was really acting kind of hyper. He wasn't acting professional. He wasn't acting like a police officer at all.

Ira Glass

Lisa had been in law enforcement herself. She'd been a corrections officer. Her dad taught criminal justice. She's got no problem with cops at all. But this one was acting so weird, she says, she kept her window up.

The officer, Lieutenant Patrick Fucari, didn't return our calls. According to Lisa and to a statement issued by the Hammond police, Lieutenant Fucari next asked for Jamal's ID. Jamal was sitting in the passenger seat and, Lisa says, wearing a seat belt, so it's not clear why this was necessary. Jamal didn't have his ID. According to the police statement, Jamal moved his hand below where the officer could see and the officer started fearing for his own safety. A second officer arrived. The interaction got weird enough that Lisa turned to her 14-year-old in the backseat and asked him to do what people do these days in this situation.

Lisa Mahon

Jojo, get your phone out and videotape this.

Jojo

I'm already doing it.

Ira Glass

The officers asked Jamal to get out of the car. Jamal didn't want to get out, and through the window, he asked for what he called a white shirt, a supervisor.

Jamal

Y'all got a white shirt?

Officer

Look at my shoulder, dumb ass. I got the bars.

Ira Glass

"I got the bars." He is a supervisor. From the police perspective, Jamal is not complying. Jamal starts looking for a ticket that he'd gotten that could prove who he is. He reaches into his book bag.

Lisa Mahon

As soon as he went inside the bag, that's when the two officers pulled the gun out.

Jamal

I got my kids in the car. You're drawing your weapon.

Ira Glass

It continues like this. Lisa starts to feel like these cops are not acting the way cops should. Let's get some adults here. There must be somebody above these people, and she calls 9-1-1.

Dispatcher

Hammond 9-1-1.

Lisa Mahon

The police just pulled a gun on me. I'm sitting in my car. And then they're asking me to open the door. I am scared.

Ira Glass

"The officer pulled a gun on me, I'm sitting in my car, they asked me to open the door, I'm scared," she says.

Dispatcher

Calm down. Pulling out a gun-- are you opening-- are you getting-- are you following the officer's orders?

Lisa Mahon

Now they're asking me to open the door. I'm scared to open the door.

Dispatcher

Why are you scared to open the door?

Lisa Mahon

Because he pulled a gun out.

Dispatcher

OK. If he's pulling a gun out, maybe because he is in fear of his life as well.

Lisa Mahon

No. We don't have anything.

Dispatcher

Ma'am, ma'am, ma'am.

Lisa Mahon

Yes, yes.

Dispatcher

He cannot see in your vehicle. You--

Lisa Mahon

She said the officer can't see in the vehicle. I said, what do you mean he can't see in the window? I said it's broad daylight.

Dispatcher

All you need to do is follow the officer's orders.

Lisa Mahon

I'm scared to open the door.

Ira Glass

Do you think the dispatcher understood why you were afraid?

Lisa Mahon

She didn't care. She didn't care. She never was helpful.

Now I'm scared for my life.

Dispatcher

Why are you scared for your life? It's a police officer pulling you over for--

Lisa Mahon

Because he pulled a gun on us.

Dispatcher

Are you going to-- are you going to stop screaming and listen?

Ira Glass

Were you surprised at the tone she took with you?

Lisa Mahon

Oh, yes. It was unbelievable. I don't have no help. No one's going to help.

Dispatcher

OK. Number one, if you're getting pulled over by an officer for not wearing your seat belt, if you cooperate, there would be no problem. You would already be at the hospital.

Ira Glass

The Hammond police statement on this incident runs two pages but does not mention Officer Fucari drawing his gun. It does say that the officer was afraid that the passengers had a gun, though it doesn't say why this mom and her friend and two kids would make him think that.

Ira Glass

Can I ask you, do you think if it had been me who had been pulled over, do you think he would have treated me that way?

Lisa Mahon

Oh, absolutely not.

Ira Glass

Because I'm white?

Lisa Mahon

Right.

Dispatcher

Then you need to just get out of the car. They're not going to hurt you if you listen.

Lisa Mahon

What are you saying somebody's not going to hurt you? People are getting shot by the police.

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

Ira Glass

The next thing that happens you may have seen on the news from her son's video.

Lisa Mahon

No. Don't mess my-- now they're about to mess my-- no!

[BREAKING GLASS]

[SCREAMING]

Jamal

Oh [BLEEP].

[YELLING]

Ira Glass

The police bust through Jamal's window, taser him, open the door, and pull him out. He was arrested for failure to aid an officer and resisting law enforcement.

[CRYING]

Lisa says 9-1-1 hung up on her when they heard the window smash. In the end of all this, the car damaged, her kid's crying, she was handed a ticket for not wearing a seat belt.

[CRYING]

People in our country do not agree on what to make of a story like this. Lots of people hear the story or see the video and they side with the dispatcher, right? If you're stopped by the police, just do what the officer says. It'll be fine. This is what lots of people said after Eric Garner died while being arrested in July in New York. People said it after Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson in August. Then there are lots of people like Lisa who say if you're black, it might not be fine.

Lisa Mahon

I was petrified. I just thought it was over.

Ira Glass

Our country is divided on this-- people who think the police are on their side, people who don't, but it's complicated. For instance, if you're starting to think you know which side of the divide Lisa's on, especially after that experience, well--

Lisa Mahon

Oh, I still trust the police. So I don't have anything against the police officers. I think they deserve all the respect in the world. The other day, there was a police officer on the side of the road with his blinkers on. I pulled over and asked him if he was OK.

Ira Glass

It was just this one officer, she says. He was the problem. She's now suing the city of Hammond over the incident and has learned that this officer was named in three other lawsuits for using excessive force. In all three, the city settled. For so long now, there's been this conversation or debate-- I don't know what you want to call this-- about policing and race and people being targeted, and whenever it comes up, it seems to split very quickly into a kind of my side versus your side sort of thing.

In these last few months, we've been talking about this stuff amongst ourselves here on the radio show staff and researching and reporting in different parts of the country, and we have found some things that surprised us about policing and how complicated and difficult it is, and about how hard it is to sort out the part that race and racism play in all kinds of incidents, and we found ways that racism seems undeniable. Anyway, we discovered things that made us see some of this differently and we want to share that with you this week and next. We have found so much of this, we actually couldn't fit it into one episode. So from WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Stay with us.

So today, what we're going to do is we're going to focus on just one police department, a police department with a troubled history, and we're going to tell the story of the chief who is trying to change that and why it is so hard to change certain things. Brian Reed tells the story.

Act One.

Brian Reed

When Chief Ed Flynn took over the Milwaukee police department in 2008, he was coming into one of the most segregated cities in America, a city that sends enormous numbers of black men to prison. Wisconsin sends the highest percentage of black men to prison of any state in the country, and in Milwaukee, that means more than half of black men in their 30s and early 40s have been to prison. And just to give you a sense of how bad relations got between black residents and police, in 2004, the city saw a brutal incident that some people call Milwaukee's Rodney King case, the beating of Frank Jude.

Woman

They're beating him up.

Dispatcher

OK. [INAUDIBLE].

Brian Reed

Jude was an exotic dancer. He did bachelorette parties. And one night after work, he ended up at a party full of off duty police officers. A group of about a dozen officers, all of whom were white and many of whom were drunk, surrounded Jude, who was black, and started beating him. They claimed he'd stolen one of their badges. Just like in the incident you heard about at the beginning of the show, one of the women who'd brought Frank Jude to the party decided to call 9-1-1 on the cops as they handcuffed Jude, cut his clothes off, and essentially tortured him-- kicked him repeatedly, bent his fingers back, shoved a pen in his ears, causing them to bleed. Even when the dispatcher sent on duty officers to the scene, one of them joined in the beating, stomping on Frank Jude's head while the other officers stood by.

Woman

They're kicking him, too.

Dispatcher

You're saying that the two officers that just arrived in the squad got out and started beating your friend also?

Woman

Yeah. They're holding him down. They're beating-- [INAUDIBLE].

Brian Reed

Eventually, seven officers were fired, three were sentenced to over 15 years in prison, but before that, officers closed ranks. No one talked. No one knew anything. It showed the city how cops would turn the other way and protect their own even if they saw something truly terrible. The case hung over Milwaukee for years.

So this was the climate Ed Flynn was walking into when he became chief. Flynn had been in law enforcement for 35 years. He'd led several small city departments-- Chelsea and Springfield in Massachusetts, and Arlington, Virginia. He'd served as Secretary of Public Safety for the whole state of Massachusetts. But when the job opened up in Milwaukee, it had a special appeal.

Ed Flynn

One of the attractive things for Milwaukee for me was that it had a very significant crime problem, highly concentrated in communities that had an historical antipathy for their police department.

Brian Reed

That's what was attractive to you, crime and antipathy for the police?

Ed Flynn

I mean, absolutely. I mean, to me, Milwaukee represented the crux of the challenge of American policing in the 21st century.

Brian Reed

And as Chief Flynn sees it, that challenge is--

Ed Flynn

Those neighborhoods that need us the most and demand our services, when they get us, get mad at us. How do we bridge that?

Brian Reed

Flynn says he's confronted this his whole career, all the way back to when he started out as a beat cop in the '70s in Jersey City.

Ed Flynn

I would go to street corners and there'd be, like, six black kids on a corner in an all black neighborhood. I would always end up with a call for service saying complaints about kids hanging on a corner. Go back to that corner. OK, kids you've got to move. You're just harassing us because we're black. OK, do you see anybody else in this neighborhood? Why do you think I'm picking on you? I said, somebody called. Well, who are they? We want to know. We have a right to stand here. Point is folks that were calling us up looked just like the people that were hanging on the corner.

Brian Reed

Flynn still sees this today in Milwaukee. Most of the city's crime victims are African American and they're the group that has the most animosity towards the police. That's not just in Milwaukee, obviously, but all around the country. So here's a problem people have been debating heatedly, especially since Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, and here's a guy who's been trying to fix the problem, to mend the relationship between black residents and the police in his city for the last seven years. He's idealistic. He's smart. He can sound very professorial, especially when he talks about the history of poverty and crime and policing. He goes in front of residents and says things like this.

Ed Flynn

We in this police department and in the police profession know we have inherited a social history of which we can't always be proud. The police have often been in the middle of great conflict and not infrequently been agents of social control to preserve a status quo.

Brian Reed

By the way, he's not reading here. This is just how he talks.

Ed Flynn

And certainly in Milwaukee in the last 40 years, you've have your own rich history, sometimes between the police and the community. So we've been working real hard in improving our relationship with neighborhoods so we had achieved some level of legitimacy.

Brian Reed

Flynn became police chief in 2008. So what's he done? How's it going? He didn't enact one single big reform. It was lots of smaller, sometimes boring stuff. He created a code of conduct, redrew the borders of police districts, shifted hundreds of officers from the citywide detective unit onto the streets, a move that wasn't popular in the department. He did a big push to work with dozens of community groups. He started this program with researchers at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee to go into schools and teach kids in high crime areas why police are stopping people more often in their neighborhoods, how they should behave during stops, and how officers should behave.

Instructor

So how would you, as a kid, feel walking in this area, knowing what you know now, and the police stop you?

Student

I would be upset.

Instructor

OK.

Student

But you should be appreciative and happy that they're doing something.

Brian Reed

As I spent time with members of the department, it was hard to pinpoint exactly what effect these changes have had, but I did get the sense that something had changed, even if it was sometimes intangible. For instance, I kept hearing certain words again and again. The most popular noun I heard, "community." The most popular verb?

Police Officer 1

We're here to engage and have a conversation.

Police Officer 2

The officers should be marketing all the opportunities to engage with us.

Police Officer 3

It has helped us to become more engaged in the community.

Police Officer 4

Our community engagement and the activities that we've been doing.

Police Officer 5

Building police legitimacy takes place when you directly engage.

Brian Reed

Of course, police departments all over the country use these exact buzzwords-- say they're engaging more and doing community policing-- but it's hard to know what this actually means.

Theresa Janick

I'm sorry I threw "engagement" out there. I'm trying to get engaged.

Brian Reed

No, it's all good. It's a term that you guys use, but I think that doesn't mean a lot to the outside world.

Theresa Janick

Right, right.

Brian Reed

I'm on an evening shift with Sergeant Theresa Janick. She's been on the force seven years. She's worked juvenile crimes, auto thefts. She worked undercover. Now she's a supervisor and she says it's an entirely new police department.

Dispatcher

10-4, thank you. Go ahead and respond to 3291 to the shots fired.

Theresa Janick

3217. I can respond to that as well. We could use just one more squad.

Brian Reed

Sergeant Janick works in district three, a largely black area with one of the highest crime rates in the city. At around six o'clock, she heads to a block where shots have been reported.

Theresa Janick

So now we're in the area. We're going to try and see what we can stir up.

Do you see anything going on out here, bud?

Man

Nothing out here.

Brian Reed

Janick talks through her window to a guy on the sidewalk. He says he's been out there like five minutes.

Theresa Janick

You didn't hear anything?

Man

Not five minutes ago.

Theresa Janick

About five minutes ago you heard something?

Man

No, no.

Brian Reed

It's worth noting that the gunshot Janick is responding to, she didn't learn about it from a 9-1-1 call. She learned about it from something called Shot Spotter. It's new technology that Chief Flynn and several other chiefs around the country have put in place that uses sensors around the city to detect when gunshots go off and tells the cops what block they happened on. What that means, though, is that even though Janick talks to several people who say, yeah, I heard a shot, not one of them called 9-1-1. No one in the neighborhood did. Sergeant Janick says this is common. When they installed Shot Spotter, the department found out that only 17% of all the shots fired were resulting in residents calling the police.

Theresa Janick

You heard it? Where do you think you heard it from?

Kid

From back here.

Theresa Janick

From back here somewhere in this lot?

Kid

Mm-hm.

Theresa Janick

All right. We'll let you guys get out of here, OK?

Kid

OK.

Brian Reed

The Milwaukee police department's standard operating procedures Chief Flynn put into place include this line. "Police members can be expected to make numerous contacts with the public on a daily basis. These contacts form the basis for the relationship between the department and the community." I rode on three shifts and watched a bunch of different officers, and one thing that struck me was how a single 9-1-1 call or just a single shot fired on Shot Spotter could quickly lead an officer to talking to a dozen people or more as they try to figure out what happened.

With this shot fired, for instance, when I was out with Sergeant Janick, there was no conclusion. They didn't find a shooter or a bullet or a casing, but still, it was an excuse for Sergeant Janick to interact with at least seven people, and it was easy for those conversations to move beyond the gunshot she was there to look into, like with this woman who was coming out of her garage.

Theresa Janick

Ma'am, did you hear anything out here?

Woman

You said did I hear anything?

Theresa Janick

Yeah.

Woman

No, I didn't.

Theresa Janick

Nothing? How long have you been here?

Woman

I live in this building, so I was downstairs in the garage for, like, 10 minutes.

Theresa Janick

Did you see anything crazy on the block lately?

Woman

It's always crazy stuff going on around here.

Theresa Janick

Do you call?

Woman

Huh?

Theresa Janick

Do you call?

Woman

Uh-uh. It's just people outside, drunk people, like. I just mind my business. As long as I don't see anything like someone fighting or something like that, I will say something, but other than that, no.

Theresa Janick

OK. Can you do me a favor and call that stuff in when you see it so that we can help you out with some of the problems that are going on over here?

Woman

OK. No problem. I didn't know that you guys wanted us to call that stuff in, but I will if I see anything.

Theresa Janick

Yeah. If there's a problem, we want to know about it.

Woman

OK.

Theresa Janick

All right?

Woman

All right.

Theresa Janick

Thank you.

Woman

You're welcome.

Brian Reed

On one of her trips around the block, Sergeant Janick asks a man staggering outside a liquor store if everything's OK. He tells Janick that he's been robbed at gunpoint two times recently on that corner. Did you contact the police, Janick asks him. Nope, he says. Would you like to report it now? Yes. She gets two officers to come take the report for him.

Brian Reed

So that was engagement. We just saw engagement.

Theresa Janick

I hate-- now that you say that we say it all the time--

Brian Reed

No, it's fine, because I think you just--

Theresa Janick

Now I'm noticing it.

Brian Reed

No, no, no. That, actually, I think I just finally saw what engagement was.

Theresa Janick

Yeah.

Brian Reed

I know. Listening to residents and actually trying to help them. It didn't strike me as revolutionary, either. But Assistant Chief James Harpole, who's been with the Milwaukee police department for nearly 30 years, told my producer Ben Calhoun and me about this one time before Chief Flynn but not that long ago, when he went with an officer to a neighborhood meeting.

James Harpole

A number of concerns were brought to our attention, and he was writing them all in his book, and we left the meeting. And I said, OK, so what's the next step? He said, well, nothing. He said, I just keep these in my book, and if it ever comes up again, I can say how we were aware of it. I'm like, OK, that's not going to cut it for me. I said, these people expect that something's going to happen here. We can't just write it down and drive away and say we're done. We've got to do something.

Brian Reed

Did you say that to him at the moment?

James Harpole

I did.

Brian Reed

And what did he say back to you?

James Harpole

He seemed shocked. He's like, well, that's just the way we've always done it.

Brian Reed

The cop Harpole is talking about, his whole job was to coordinate with residents. His title was Community Liaison Officer. Contrast that with what I saw at a daily briefing in district three. So much of it was cops discussing intel from residents and taking it seriously. They updated the captain about a meeting they'd held with people who lived near the site of a recent homicide who had helped them identify 17 nuisance properties where criminal activity might be going on. They read aloud from emails a guy sent them with the license plate of cars he saw picking up suspected prostitutes, and--

Police Officer 6

One more update. If someone can help Dave from the bakery get in touch with Gorman Properties regarding some windows at 40th and Cherry.

Police Officer 7

They're broken?

Police Officer 6

Yep.

Police Officer 7

OK.

Brian Reed

In case you didn't get that, this is literal broken window policing. They're going to get a landlord to replace some busted glass. Three years into Flynn's tenure, it was going pretty well. Violent crimes were down, homicides were down, citizen complaints against police were decreasing by quite a bit. Then in the summer of 2011, things took a bad turn, starting with the arrest of a man named Derek Williams. One night in July, officers responded to the scene of a robbery and found Williams. He was 22 years old, black. He ran. Officers chased him over a fence, caught him, handcuffed him, and put him in the back of a police car where a camera recorded what happened next.

Derek Williams

[INAUDIBLE].

Police Officer 8

What's your last name?

Derek Williams

I can't breathe.

Police Officer 8

You're breathing just fine.

Derek Williams

Believe me.

Police Officer 8

What's your last name?

Derek Williams

I can't breathe, Sir.

Police Officer 8

You're just playing games.

Brian Reed

The video is horrible to watch. Minutes go by as Williams, shirtless and in handcuffs, writhes in the backseat, gasping for air. He pleads for medical attention but the officers ignore him.

Derek Williams

Help!

[GAGGING]

Brian Reed

This goes on for nearly eight minutes, then Derek Williams slumps over on the seat, at which point an officer opens the door and tries to wake him up.

Police Officer 8

Hey, Derek. Derek.

Brian Reed

He checks his pulse. A few minutes later in the video, you see police administering CPR, but it was too late. Derek Williams died in the back of a squad car as he pleaded for medical help. It was Milwaukee's own Eric Garner video three years before it happened in New York. And through all the investigations, Chief Flynn defended the officers involved and they continued on active duty. People were furious. They protested, demanded that the state press criminal charges against the officers, demanded that the chief resign. Amazingly, Flynn says when he and other commanders first watched the video, they did not foresee that reaction.

Ed Flynn

Our first thought when that tape was finished was breathing a sigh of relief. Well gosh, the cops didn't do anything to him. And of course, what we're completely missing is that an average person seeing that tape is perceiving absolutely uncaring, unfeeling officers who refused to do anything about a man in distress, and we missed it.

Brian Reed

Flynn says part of the disconnect stemmed from the fact that the video camera was infrared, so people watching it after the fact could see Derek Williams in a way the officers couldn't in the moment because it was dark. But the biggest problem, he says, is that he took for granted that the public would understand his reasoning for not disciplining the officers.

Ed Flynn

You know, in hindsight, one recognizes it's difficult to explain the universe of police officers in crisis situations and how often an average officer encounters an arrested suspect who doesn't want to go to jail and wants to go to the hospital.

Brian Reed

That specific scenario happens a lot?

Ed Flynn

Exactly. I can't breathe, I have something wrong with me, I have a pain. And after a while, it becomes just part of the noise of making an arrest and officers get a little inured to it. Now, that's not something the public wants to hear the police chief try to explain when a young man just dropped dead in the back of a car, and so the lesson that was clear to us is if you say you can't breathe, OK, we're calling an ambulance.

Brian Reed

You changed the policy?

Ed Flynn

We changed the policy. We made it mandatory. We probably tripled the number of ambulance runs for people under arrest going to jail, but we removed the officers' need to make a judgment.

Brian Reed

I think part of what upset people so much about that, and what's upsetting to watch about it, I think it made people wonder why a policy is needed to have officers respond that way. You know, you look at this and it's kind of like, wouldn't it be basic human decency to respond to someone who's in distress like that or asking for help like that? And I wonder if you think that incident points to some kind of lack of empathy.

Ed Flynn

Cops start out empathetic or they wouldn't be doing this in the first place. You come to a police academy graduation, you talk to officers in training. They're dying to get out there and help people. But as the social net has frayed, cops are spending enormous amounts of time with the social problems that society's taken a walk on, and night after night after night, police officers go through the same problems for which there are no solutions.

The people that are police officers are regular people just like you, and they have faced the same kind of long term stresses on their equilibrium that anybody who is deployed year after year after year to Iraq and Afghanistan experiences. It happens more rapidly in a war zone, obviously, but the same dynamics are working on America's police officers every day on the streets of our cities, and they do harden themselves. They have to.

Brian Reed

One thing Flynn says he's doing to try to rebuild empathy, he's trying to get cops on foot patrols at least an hour a shift so they can have friendly interactions with people who aren't in bad situations. Assistant Chief James Harpole says cynicism is especially dangerous to cops on third shift from midnight to 8:00 AM. He worked that shift for four years and he remembers the moment he realized he'd become jaded. It was when he got switched to second shift in the afternoons.

James Harpole

My first day working second shift was an eye opening experience for me. I'm driving down the street in the very same neighborhood I patrolled on third shift, and I see families, people pushing their babies, people waving at us as we were driving down the street. It shocked me. I was in shock. I had not experienced that. I realized at that very moment that the area that I was patrolling had an overwhelming majority of hardworking, outstanding individuals who wanted to have safe neighborhoods.

Brian Reed

That hadn't occurred to you before, for real?

James Harpole

Because I didn't deal with people like that. Before you even made it out of the station house, the dispatcher was sending you to the first fight and everybody was drunk and blood everywhere. So no, I hadn't even begun to think, is there anybody that's not like this?

Brian Reed

Harpole says working second shift completely changed his mindset for dealing with people on the job. I asked Chief Flynn if they ever change people's shifts with this in mind, rotate cops to give them different perspectives on a neighborhood, and he said they can't because the union contract doesn't allow them to. I told him it seemed like, from Harpole's story, there might be value in it. He said, yeah, there'd be value in renegotiating the contract, too.

Ira Glass

Brian Reed. Coming up, his story continues, and among other things, we go with Chief Flynn's officers as they try to solve a case, a shooting. That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio when our program continues.

Act Two.

Ira Glass

It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. This week and next on our show, "Cops See Things Differently," stories of policing and race. We're telling the story today of Chief Ed Flynn's tenure at the Milwaukee police department and how he's trying to improve relations between the police and black residents. One of the challenges he faced was he wanted to start a program that would basically be Milwaukee's version of the stop and frisk program, which is so controversial in New York City. Stop and frisk, of course, was policemen stopping pedestrians, but in Milwaukee, people drive, so lots of the stops were traffic stops. Again, here's Brian Reed.

Brian Reed

When Chief Flynn looked at the data from Milwaukee, he saw that when officers pulled over people in high crime areas more frequently for minor violations like having a taillight out or running a stop sign, car thefts went down. Flynn believed more stops would mean fewer crimes, so he wanted to do more stops, but somehow without angering people or alienating them.

Ed Flynn

I also wanted to make sure we didn't accidentally enact a poor person's tax. If I'm going to put the cops on the hot spots and say enforce traffic laws because I really want to reduce robberies and car thefts, but I'm writing everybody tickets, how much good did I do myself? Maybe I'm going to reduce the number car thefts, but everybody hates us. So the order that implemented this policy said give warnings if you possibly can. The preferred outcome is a warning.

Brian Reed

The number of traffic stops in Milwaukee almost quadrupled and the number of times officers stopped pedestrians tripled. And, like Flynn wanted, he says fewer than 20% of the traffic stops resulted in citation or arrest. Car thefts and robberies decreased, and Flynn saw an added benefit. Citizen complaints dropped, too. He thinks that's because more people were having good interactions with the cops, and there are numbers on this. A University of Wisconsin Milwaukee study that came out last month found that more than 60% of people who'd been approached by police during traffic stops said they were satisfied with how the officer handled the interaction.

But it was also during these traffic stops and pedestrian stops that one of the biggest scandals of Flynn's tenure as police chief happened. Dozens of people are now suing the department. One of them is Brandon Graham. Brandon is 25 years old. He says he started getting stopped back sometime in 2011, about three years into Flynn's push to increase stops. The way Brandon remembers it, one day he went back to a neighborhood he used to live in on the north side of Milwaukee, and his friends kept telling him how the cops in that district, district five, had been harassing them constantly.

Brandon Graham

I didn't really take it serious what they were saying. I'm thinking, like, you guys were doing something wrong to be stopped by the police. There's no police officer that's going to waste their time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where there's a lot of crime, to stop you from walking down the street.

Brian Reed

Brandon's naivete lasted for all of two hours. Sure enough, he says, that very afternoon, the cops came by.

Brandon Graham

We all stopped. I had no worries. I thought they were maybe looking for someone else, and I'm sure that it's not legal for the cops just to pull up and just pat you down with no probable cause. So we were all sitting there, and they asked me my name or whatever, asked me for my ID. I'm like, OK. I give them my ID or whatever. I'm like, is there any type of problems? They tell me to shut the F up.

Brian Reed

A warning. This gets explicit.

Brandon Graham

He grabbed my pants and pulled them up to almost where I was on my tiptoes, and once he did that, he rubbed his hand from the front all the way to the back, from my testicles to my buttocks back and forth. So I'm like, what's going on? I'm not understanding why this is happening. It seemed as though they were trying their best to intimidate us, how they were talking to everyone end and not waiting for an answer. And like I said, it's only the first time.

Brian Reed

Soon after, Brandon ended up moving back to that neighborhood, and the random stops continued in the same style as that first one.

Brian Reed

So wait. How many times has this happened to you?

Brandon Graham

It's happened almost every single day, like a couple years, every day.

Brian Reed

One night, I spent time with Brandon and some of his friends back in district five. Brandon doesn't live there anymore, but they got to reminiscing about officers from the neighborhood, and listen to how well they knew them. It's like they're talking about old high school classmates or something.

Man 1

You talking about the short, fat one?

P

No, the little short white dude. Slam. The one that slammed you all on the hood.

Man 1

You talking about Kapinsky?

Man 2

No. Kapinsky was kind of big.

P

Kapinsky's kind of big. I'm talking about the dude that's, like, your height.

Man 1

What time was it when it happened?

P

Late night.

Man 1

Oh. That's probably [INAUDIBLE] Letterman. Vag was probably in the green car that night. Because didn't Vag use to be in a white detail car?

P

Yeah. That's the car he pulled in the driveway in, my aunt's driveway.

Brian Reed

They're saying "Vag," short for Officer Michael Vagnini, the most notorious cop in the district at the time, and maybe all of Milwaukee. This is Brandon's friend P remembering the night officer Vagnini followed him into his aunt and uncle's driveway.

P

[INAUDIBLE] walked all in her house. It's two something in the morning, walked all in the house, searched the house. Walked in my uncle's room. He's just getting out of the shower, butt ass naked. Oh yeah, man, put some clothes on. Fuck out of here, nigga. This ain't your motherfucking house. Get the fuck out. My uncle snapped, saying, do you got a search warrant? He said, let me put my clothes on. Let me call your sergeant and see if this is OK.

Brian Reed

It was this officer, Michael Vagnini, who Brandon says was responsible for the worst night of his life. He and some friends were in the car and a group of officers pulled them over. In court documents, the police say it was because they ran a stop sign and were missing a side mirror. They asked Brandon and his friends to get out of car. One officer patted Brandon down, then another. Again, Brandon's description is graphic.

Brandon Graham

Vagnini then was saying, I'm not a rookie, and then searched me. He stuck his hands in my boxers from the back first around my rectum area, and then reached around the front and kind of moved around my testicles. And the whole time, I'm having to hold my hands up, and every time I dropped my hands, he threatened me, you know, like if you drop your hands anymore, I'll kick you in the forehead. The whole time, I'm begging, please, Vag, you're touching my ass, you're touching my ass. You have your fingers around my butt hole. You're scratching me. You're lifting my testicles. It brought tears to my eyes because it's like, what can I do about this? When is it going to stop? The other officers are standing right there.

Brian Reed

Brandon says Officer Vagnini then pulled out a knife and cut open the waistband of his pants, where Brandon had two bags of cocaine. The officers arrested Brandon. He plead guilty to a misdemeanor possession charge. In the criminal complaint, the police say that Brandon consented to a search of his person. There's no description of the search.

Almost a year later, in 2012, Chief Flynn and the district attorney announced that they were investigating a pattern of complaints from the previous couple years about illegal searches, including illegal strip searches and cavity searches. Flynn asked any residents with information or complaints to call Internal Affairs. Three officers eventually plead no contest to being party to the illegal searches and were given community service. One went to jail for 20 days.

Officer Vagnini plead no contest to four counts of illegal cavity searches and misconduct in public office. He was sentenced to a little more than two years in prison. For his sentencing, dozens of police officers wrote letters supporting him, saying his only crime was overzealousness in keeping the community safe from criminals. They called him exemplary, one of the best cops in the city, the kind of officer they wanted to be.

But Vagnini's trial wasn't the end of it. About 60 people are now suing the department claiming they were also illegally searched. They name at least 40 officers and allege that supervisors looked the other way or ignored complaints.

A Milwaukee civil rights attorney who represented Frank Jude told me he'd been getting calls complaining about illegal searches for years before the chief announced his investigation. Even though he believed many of them and started to notice patterns involving specific officers, he couldn't prove the claims. Safran says a man who contacted him 10 years ago about an illegal search called him recently and said I told you so. Safran says some of the people who reported this behavior are still in prison because of the searches they say were illegal.

It probably goes without saying that Brandon is one of the many black Milwaukeeans who has not been won over by Chief Flynn's campaign to build trust. I asked him and his friend Rex if they could picture a scenario in which they'd ever call the cops for help, if they got robbed at gunpoint, for instance.

Brandon Graham

You're asking if we're going to call the police?

Brian Reed

Yes.

Brandon Graham

No. You would call the police, Rex?

Rex

Hell no. Hell motherfucking no.

Brandon Graham

[INAUDIBLE] the police.

Brian Reed

Chief Flynn told me when he learned about the illegal searches and the cavity searches, he was furious and disappointed. He says this was a small, isolated group of officers who slipped into a game of getting the, quote, "bad guys" at all costs. But he also says he's skeptical of the people coming forward now claiming they were illegally searched and suing because of it. He called the lawsuits a cottage industry. He says the department only ever got three complaints and they were all from drug dealers who had been frequently arrested.

One thing that surprised me talking to Flynn, especially because he's such a student of history, was what he said when I asked him about the issue that's at the center of so many conversations about policing, race.

Ed Flynn

At the level of cop working in the neighborhood, race is irrelevant. It's just people.

Brian Reed

Flynn says that whenever there's an incident between a white officer and a black resident, people get upset and say it's racism, but he says they're missing the big picture. So for instance, in 2011, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did a story where a data reporter looked at police records and found that black drivers in the city were seven times more likely than white drivers to be stopped by police. In response, Flynn did a whole presentation for residents with maps and crime numbers where he told them the same thing he told me, that the disparity isn't because of officers' bias against black residents. It's just that the majority of crimes happen in neighborhoods that are overwhelmingly African American.

Ed Flynn

And people come and say, we're shocked, shocked to find out the police are intervening so much in this neighborhood. What? What? Of course our interventions are going to generate disparities. I mean, they're going to match the disparities of where our crimes and victims are.

Brian Reed

That may explain the statistics, but what I wanted to know was doesn't race play a role in those interventions? Only 17% of the Milwaukee police force is black in an incredibly segregated city. I told Flynn there's evidence that race can influence the way cops deal with black residents. Some of this we're going to talk about more in next week's show. There's research about people's implicit biases, subconscious racism that can affect officers' decisions.

But there's also evidence in Chief Flynn's own department, according to that Journal Sentinel story, which showed that the largest disparity between blacks and whites getting pulled over in Milwaukee didn't happen in high crime black areas of the city, but in the two lowest crime districts, both with predominantly white populations. The paper also found that once black drivers were pulled over, they were twice as likely as white drivers to have police search their cars, even though that didn't lead to finding more drugs or weapons. Flynn eventually said he's not trying to say race plays no role in policing.

Ed Flynn

But what I am trying to say is that it does not play the role people think it does. The average reality of police working the same neighborhoods every day or every night, any biases you build up, tend to be based on a collection of experiences you've had based on the neighborhood in which you're working, and that counts for, in a practical way, more.

Brian Reed

I left this conversation not feeling like the chief was denying a reality because it was uncomfortable for him to admit it, more like he honestly didn't see reality the way many other people do and the way I expected him to.

One interesting finding from that police satisfaction survey, while black people were much less likely to say they were satisfied with the police, if they'd called the police in the last year and it went well, that disparity almost completely disappeared. If the resident initiated the contact, not the police, one positive experience could make a difference.

Richard Gordy

Just want to pick it up a little bit here because the call was indicating that the female was shooting at her neighbor, so if that's the case, somebody was shot.

Dispatcher

Someone on the phone line calling to say she was haggling with her neighbor about parking spots--

Brian Reed

I'm in a squad car with Officer Richard Gordy speeding towards people who say their neighbor fired a gun at them. I'm going to tell you the story of the whole investigation of this potential shooting because first of all, it's just a good whodunit, and more important, it's black residents who called the police for help which, according to the survey at least, means if it goes well could totally change how the callers feel about the police.

Richard Gordy

OK. We're rolling up on the scene here, guys.

Brian Reed

We arrive at a small apartment building. It's around 9:30 in the morning on a Tuesday. Officer Gordy drives by the small parking area in the back to see if there are any bullet casings. There aren't. He and another officer go inside the building and talk to people in there, but no one says they heard anything, and there's nothing coming up on Shot Spotter, so Officer Gordy sits in his squad car, contemplating his next move, until suddenly a green car pulls up right behind us and some people get out.

Dispatcher

[INAUDIBLE].

Man

Oh shit.

Dispatcher

[INAUDIBLE].

Richard Gordy

What's going on?

Brian Reed

It's a young couple.

Thomas

Well, this morning, the lady downstairs, her car was parked behind our car, and we had to move the car so we could get out the driveway, but then she got hostile.

Richard Gordy

OK. You guys don't have a gun on you?

Trina

No. You can check my car, everything.

Thomas

We ain't got no gun.

Richard Gordy

All right.

Thomas

She got hostile. She started cussing me out. She said, motherfucker, I ain't got to move my motherfucking car. So she got mad, and I said, listen, we're trying to get out the parking lot to drop the kids off. We had six kids with us. And she said, motherfucker, I ain't got to do shit, and she slammed the door. She came back out with a gun. And her--

Brian Reed

This guy's name is Thomas. He's with his girlfriend, Trina. Thomas says after the neighbor came out with a gun, she then threatened to kill him, backed him down the hallway and out the back door, where Trina was waiting in the car with the kids.

Thomas

--I'm going to shoot you. So we're down there almost at the lot, and she shot at us by the car. She said, boom!

Trina

And the kids [INAUDIBLE].

Thomas

She said, boom.

Richard Gordy

Where were you at when she shot at you?

Thomas

We was in the car. I hopped in the car because she pointed at me again. I said--

Richard Gordy

Where did she point at you with the gun?

Thomas

She pointed it at me. She's standing in the doorway like this. She pointed the gun at me like this.

Brian Reed

Officer Gordy told me that they frequently get calls claiming there's a gun when there really isn't, just because people know the cops have to respond more quickly to that. Since there was no evidence of a shot fired, Gordy thought that might be what was going on here, so he separates Thomas from Trina and takes them alone into the police car.

Richard Gordy

You don't have a gun?

Thomas

No, I don't have a gun. I work at Walmart.

Richard Gordy

OK. Listen to me real quick here, OK, because there's a lot going on here. Very important that if she didn't shoot at you, just tell me she didn't shoot at you, but if she did, that's fine, too, but make sure you're telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Thomas

I said she shot at me because--

Richard Gordy

OK. That's OK. Listen to me real quick here. All I need to know is if she did or she didn't. If she didn't, that's fine. If it's a dispute, we'll handle that. But if she really did, make sure you're telling the truth, because if you're not, you'll be charged, OK? So did she or did she not? Because I'm getting ready to--

Thomas

I can't say she-- if she shot directly at us, I'd have been hit, but she shot--

Richard Gordy

Was a gun shot? Was a gun fired?

Thomas

The gun was fired.

Richard Gordy

Look at this. Can I show you something here? You know what Shot Spotter is? This detects gunshots. I've got no gunshots here. That's why I'm asking you. This is technology. This is satellite technology. Shots fired. There's nothing here. That's why I'm asking you.

Brian Reed

The thing Gordy is not telling Thomas is that he doesn't think Shot Spotter covers the block we're on, but he doesn't tell him that because even though Thomas is the one who wanted the cops' help and says he was the victim, Gordy is trying to figure out if he's lying. He's approaching Thomas as a potential victim and a potential suspect, and it gets to Thomas. He starts to backtrack a bit with his story.

Thomas

I don't know if there were bullets in the gun. She pulled it and pop.

Richard Gordy

Did you hear a gunshot?

Thomas

Yes. Yes. I heard a gunshot. I was right there. She pointed the gun at me. She said, look, I'm going to kill you.

Brian Reed

Meanwhile, inside the building, other officers have found the alleged shooter, a woman named Charday. They didn't find Charday in her own apartment-- she was in one down the hall-- and she has quite a different story to tell about Thomas.

Charday

Then he starts kicking my door, he starts kicking in my door and shaking my doorknob.

Police Officer 9

Why is he down here banging on your door?

Charday

Because he wanted me to move my car.

Police Officer 9

OK.

Charday

And I told him I was getting to put my clothes on and move my car, and he said, this bitch is not moving her car, so he got to kick in my door. [INAUDIBLE] arguing with my kids, calling them all kinds of ho's and bitches and he will whoop their ass, so I was scared for my kids to go outside because no telling if a person can harm my child.

Police Officer 9

OK. There is alleged that a shot was fired today here.

Charday

I didn't hear no shots.

Police Officer 9

Did anyone have a gun?

Charday

No. No one had a gun. I don't even think they had a gun.

Police Officer 9

Is there a weapon in here?

Charday

No.

Police Officer 9

Do you own a weapon?

Charday

No, I do not. I had my house searched before. You could search my house.

Police Officer 9

It's not about that, OK? It's about getting to the bottom of this. I don't want to have to go, get search warrant, tear your house upside down here looking for a pistol.

Charday

You can search it now.

Brian Reed

For obvious reasons, officers are focusing on whether or not there was a gun involved in whatever happened during this dispute. Outside, the cops ask Thomas over and over, all different ways, if there had been a gun, if he'd seen a gun, if a gun had been fired. They do the same thing with Thomas's girlfriend, Trina. Again, these are the people who asked for the cops to help them. Officer Gordy takes Trina out back to the parking lot and has her act out how it went down.

Trina

--like that, so she was like, bah!

Richard Gordy

Show me exactly where you were when you saw her fire.

Trina

I see smoke come out the gun. I didn't see where the--

Richard Gordy

Did you ever hear her? Did you ever hear the gunshot fired?

Trina

Yeah. It was like, bah!

Richard Gordy

Did you ever see a flash come out of the gun?

Trina

I've seen white smoke, like puh.

Richard Gordy

So that would be the direction that it went?

Trina

Yeah, right here. My boyfriend was standing right there.

Richard Gordy

Don't you think if she fired, that something here would have been hit?

Trina

I don't know. I ain't never seen no gun, so I don't know.

Brian Reed

At this point, everyone's pissed. Trina is outside complaining to Thomas about how you can't even get help from the police, how they only care if someone's dead. And inside, Charday is sitting handcuffed. She's not arrested, but in handcuffs, as officers tear up her apartment looking for a gun.

Charday

Look at y'all. I've got a brand new blanket on the floor. Y'all got shit all over the floor. Come on, now. Y'all are doing it reckless. Shit. Now I'm already letting y'all in my house searching. If I did have something, I wouldn't be hiding it in my damn kids' clothes.

Police Officer 9

I'd like to believe you, but after 22 years, you'd be shocked what I've found and where I've found it.

Brian Reed

As for the cops, they're having trouble figuring out the truth. I heard the supervising officer on the scene, a sergeant, whisper to officer Gordy that he thought they should arrest both Charday and Thomas for fighting. Almost an hour passed. Inside, the officers continued to look through Charday's things, and then-- I'm not even sure if any of the cops noticed this-- a few tears began to run down Charday's face. Not long after, in a hamper full of dirty clothes in the closet, they found a gun, a long black revolver, exactly what both Thomas and Trina had independently described. It had one spent bullet.

The cops arrested Charday for recklessly endangering safety by use of a firearm. Officer Gordy let her change out of her pajamas into warmer clothes, made sure her grandma was able to watch her kids, and then walked her out of the building in handcuffs.

Richard Gordy

The kids are all taken care of and everything? It's OK that they're going to be with Grandma?

Charday

Yeah.

Richard Gordy

Are you crying?

Brian Reed

As all this was wrapping up, Trina called me over. She said she had something to say about the police.

Trina

You see how they do us? They don't believe us. Somebody could have been dead. You feel me? They was trying to say we were a liar, I mean, not [INAUDIBLE] was a liar, but they were trying to make it seem like it wasn't nothing when it was something. She shot at me and my boyfriend and five kids in the car.

Brian Reed

Trina pointed to a group of guys who had been hanging around the block while the investigation was going on. She told me they were Charday's people, cousins, and that Charday had threatened that they would go after Trina and her boyfriend.

Trina

That's how people end up dead. When you call the police, you're being a snitch for real. Police got to take cautions right then and there. If they don't, when they leave, people get killed like that. You know what I'm saying? That's what I'm telling the police.

Brian Reed

So you were worried that the police weren't going to believe you, they weren't going to find a gun.

Trina

And they were going to leave and I was going to be here by myself and they were going to start some other stuff up.

Brian Reed

I mean, it seemed like it worked out, though.

Trina

Yeah, it did, but they just really weren't believing us today, [INAUDIBLE] the gun, but that's just history, anyway. These white thugs, they judge you on how you look.

Brian Reed

Cops need to be skeptical during investigations. It's built into their jobs. They aren't supposed to fully trust the person they're talking to. But of course, the person they're talking to can feel that. Trina and Thomas did. And it's upsetting if you've just been shot at to have the police come and interrogate you like you're the criminal. And on top of that, there's the history, all the times the cops haven't treated people fairly or worse. That's always there, casting a shadow over every interaction. The cops feel like they're just doing their job the way they always do, but for Trina, it's hard not to wonder if the cops would be treating her this way if she was white.

One last story. On April 30 last year, a white Milwaukee police officer shot and killed a black man named Dontre Hamilton. He was sleeping in a plaza across from City Hall in the afternoon, and an employee from a nearby Starbucks called the police. Two officers checked on Hamilton and determined he wasn't doing anything wrong. Then a different cop, the beat cop for the area, Officer Christopher Manny, came and roused him and tried to pat him down. This led to some kind of altercation. According to officer Manny and some witnesses, Hamilton grabbed his baton and hit him in the neck with it. Manny says he feared for his life. He shot Hamilton 14 times. Hamilton was 31 years old and had suffered from schizophrenia.

And unlike after the death of Derek Williams, the man in the back of a squad car who couldn't breathe, Chief Flynn fired officer Manny, though he didn't fire him for killing Hamilton. He fired him for doing a pat down that was against department policy and not in line with his training. Flynn says Officer Manny could tell when he approached that Hamilton was in the midst of a mental health issue, which means he should have never tried to touch him. That's rule number one when dealing with someone in a mental health crisis. And by trying to pat him down, Flynn says, Manny created the situation in which he feared for his life and ended up killing Dontre Hamilton.

Man 1

It was [INAUDIBLE].

Man 2

It was murder. It was murder!

Brian Reed

In November, after Officer Manny appealed Chief Flynn's decision to fire him, the public was given a chance to comment before Milwaukee's fire and police commission. I was there. People packed into a senior center gymnasium. On the right, members of the police union, almost entirely white. On the left, Dontre Hamilton's family and supporters, largely black and brown.

For an hour, Chief Flynn and the commission sat silently on stage as supporters of Dontre Hamilton berated them. They were angry that Flynn had taken six months to make a decision about Manny's firing, that he'd announced it two days after Manny had filed for disability, which meant he could still get paid, and that under a new state law, what was supposed to be an independent investigation into Dontre Hamilton's death had been done by former Milwaukee police officers. On the other side, the police union members were furious that Flynn would even consider suspending Officer Manny, never mind firing him, for doing what union president Mike Crivello said any reasonable officer would do in that situation.

Mike Crivello

When the situation created the necessity for the use of a deadly force, PO Manny did what he had to. Certainly would have rather not have had to. Certainly would have rather not have had to. We are grateful he survived. I am 100% confident that a [INAUDIBLE] tragedy. We are saddened by the loss of Mr. Hamilton. We have compassion for the family. I am praying for peace for the Hamilton family.

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

Brian Reed

There was one thing both sides could agree on. They both wanted Chief Flynn gone. Dontre Hamilton's supporters had issued a demand for his resignation, and the union had recently held a no confidence vote, where 99% of the cops who showed up had voted against the chief. At one point during the public comments, Chief Flynn began to look down at his lap. He was checking this phone. People shouted at him, saying how dare he, saying he was being insensitive. After the meeting, in the lobby of the senior center as Flynn was on his way out, he addressed it with a scrum of reporters.

Ed Flynn

Well, I was on my phone, and yes, that's true. I was following developments with a five-year-old little girl sitting on her dad's lap who had just got shot in the head by a drive by shooting. And if some of the people here gave a good goddamn about the victimization of people in this community by crime, I'd take some of their invective more seriously.

The greatest racial disparity in the city of Milwaukee is getting shot and killed. Hello. 80% of my homicide victims every year are African American. 80% of our aggravated assault victims are African American. 80% of our shooting victims who survive their shooting are African American. Now, they know all about the last three people that have been killed by the Milwaukee police department over the course of the last several years. There's not one of them can name one of the last three homicide victims we've had in this city.

Now, there's room for everybody to participate in fixing this police department, and I'm not pretending we're without sin, but this community is at risk, all right, and it's not because men and women in blue risk their lives protecting it. It's at risk because we've got large numbers of high capacity quality firearms in the hands of remorseless criminals who don't care who they shoot. Now, I'm leaving here to go to that scene.

And I take it personally, OK? We're going up there and there's a bunch of cops processing a scene of a dead kid. They're the ones that are going to take the risks to their life to try to clean this thing up, all right? We are responsible for the things we get wrong and we take action. We've arrested cops, we've fired cops, and so on. But when you start getting yelled at for reading the updates of the kid that got shot, yeah, you take it personal, OK? Now no offense, but I'm going up there now.

Brian Reed

If you're going to repair the relationship between African Americans and the police, at least the way Chief Flynn is trying to, it's going to happen in the course of thousands of encounters between cops and black residents, thousands of encounters that need to go well, and even if they do, each one still only brings you one small step closer to building trust. It's a game of inches.

Right now, according to that University of Wisconsin survey, 63% of black Milwaukeeans say they're satisfied with police, versus 83% of white Milwaukeeans. Remember Trina, the woman whose neighbor shot at her and her boyfriend? On paper, her case looks like a success for the Milwaukee police. They arrested the shooter, confiscated the gun, and on top of that, they helped Trina out, offered to stand guard while Trina and her boyfriend moved out of the apartment building that day to make sure the neighbor's cousins didn't do anything to them. Trina thanked the officers before they left, and still, when we talked about if she trusted the Milwaukee PD, she said--

Trina

I don't really. It's a 50/50 chance, you know what I'm saying? 50/50.

Brian Reed

50/50 chance of what?

Trina

Like sometimes they help people, sometimes they wouldn't. You know what I'm saying? That was the grace of god that they found that gun.

Brian Reed

Sometimes they'll help you and sometimes they won't?

Trina

Yeah. They won't.

Brian Reed

Trina is not the only black Milwaukeean who said something like this to me. I asked one woman what she thought of the Milwaukee PD and she put it like this. You just don't know what to expect. That stayed with me. She wasn't saying all cops are racist or the whole force is corrupt. She was saying something much more measured, that the police are unpredictable, which means at least this woman felt that when you have an interaction with a cop, you can never be sure what you're going to get.

Credits.

Ira Glass

Brian Reed is one of the producers of our program. Ben Calhoun helped produce that story. Next week, some cities where policing is so different from Milwaukee in the second week of our series.

Our program was produced today by Brian Reed with Sean Cole, Stephanie [INAUDIBLE], Chana Joffe-Walt, Miki Meek, Jonathan Menjivar, Robyn Semien, Alissa Shipp, and Nancy Updike. Our senior producer is Julie Snyder. Editing by Joel Lovell. Production help from Simon Adler. Seth Lind is our operations director. Emily Condon's our production manager. Elise Bergerson's our office manager. Adrianne Mathiowetz runs our website. Elna Baker scout stories for our show. Research help from Michelle Harris, Christopher Swetala, and Ben Anastas. Music help from Damien Graef and Rob Geddis.

[ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS]

Our website, thisamericanlife.org. This American Life is delivered to public radio stations by PRX. the Public Radio Exchange. Thanks as always to our program's co-founder, Mr. Torey Malatia. You know, he finally met a few of our listeners at a WBEZ event, and I don't know what he was thinking. They were very different from what he expected.

James Harpole

I see families, people pushing their babies. It shocked me. I was in shock.

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass, back next week with part two of our series on policing and more stories of This American Life.