(AP) A complaint has been filed against the Milwaukee Police Department by The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, contending the department has failed to follow its own rules about releasing information to the public through the news media.
The Sentinel claimed in the complaint filed Monday with the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission that police officials routinely ignore the department’s own public information policy by refusing to release basic information about crimes, crime victims and those arrested for crimes.
Journal Sentinel Editor Martin Kaiser said the newspaper could have sued under state public records law. But he said it decided a complaint to the commission was better because a lawsuit would ultimately have been costly to taxpayers.
The Police Department’s public information policy states that anyone is entitled to the “greatest possible information” regarding the agency’s affairs and official acts by employees. The policy also says that the public has a right to know what the Police Department is doing.
The newspaper’s complaint contends Milwaukee police are not following the department’s specific policy on releasing information on adults arrested for crimes.
Under that written policy, reporters who ask for information by phone or in person “shall” be provided with the arrested person’s name, race, gender, age, location of arrest, names of arresting officers and the type of offense.
But the Journal Sentinel said reporters asked on several occasions during May and June for names of those arrested in shootings, break-ins and homicides, but police refused to release the information.
Department spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz said information about suspects in crimes is available to the news media 24 hours a day from police blotters at district stations.
Concerning information about victims, Schwartz said “we are not going to revictimize people in the media.”
She said the Milwaukee Police Department was more open with the news media now than it had ever been.
“But we’ve in the business of solving crimes, and sometimes we need to withhold information,” she added.